Ethiopia: First wheelchair basketball tournament ends with a win

The game clock was ticking down when a sharp-shooting player from the Addis Ababa wheelchair basketball team threw up a well-aimed shot. A game-winning score!

Alemu Yosef couldn’t hide his disappointment. A member of the opposing team from Assala, Alemu vowed that his team would win next year’s tournament.

Though his team ended up just missing out on first place, Alemu was happy just to be able to participate in the first national wheelchair basketball tournament in Ethiopia, an event co-hosted by the Ethiopia Basketball Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross from November 30th to December 3rd.

After suffering serious injuries during Ethiopia’s long civil war, which ended in 1991, Alemu lost a leg and fell into a tailspin.

“I was depressed and thought there was no future for me,” said Alemu, who is in his late 40s. “Talking to and sharing experiences with others who had faced this or more difficult situations gave me the strength to begin to rebuild my life.”

Today, Alemu is married and has three children and runs a small boutique in Assala. Playing wheelchair basketball has had a positive impact. “Today, basketball has become my life. I love this game because it gives me happiness and strength,” Alemu says.

“Everything is possible if you have determination and faith in yourself,” added Teshome Chala, a teammate and friend of Alemu’s who lost both legs during the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Teshome is also a father of three who runs his own successful business.

The five-team wheelchair tournament was organized to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. During the final game, the team from Assala faced a strong team from Addis Ababa in a close and exciting match. The Addis Ababa team scored in the final few moments to take the win 13-12.

Speaking after the conclusion of the tournament, the Vice President of the Ethiopia Basketball Federation, Dr. Tibebu Chekol, said: “Next year the number of participating teams will be doubled to ten.”

The ICRC delegation in Ethiopia supported the organization of the tournament by providing wheelchairs and coaching to the participating teams. The support given to wheelchair basketball programs worldwide is an integral part of the ICRC’s rehabilitation program, which promotes social inclusion and integration of persons with physical disabilities.