Bangladesh: Scoring like an all-rounder
When people with disabilities participate in sports, they can gain dignity and confidence. In March of this year, in Bangladesh, a friendly cricket tournament allowed teams from two countries, Bangladesh and India, to compete against each other. Even though only one team could claim victory, all participants from both teams were winners.
From 17 to 20 March, the carpeted grass at the National Sports Education Centre (BKSP) in Savar, Bangladesh, was laid out for Rubel and 21 other spirited sportsmen. Rubel’s team, the Bengal Tigers, representing the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) in Bangladesh, were hosting the Men in Blue, representing the Disabled Sporting Society (DSS) of India. As the two teams exchanged handshakes, flags of both nations waved gently above their tents. The occasion was a friendly cricket tournament in Savar, 24 km north-west of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. The participants had all suffered from either accidents or lack of medical care.
Sitting in a wheelchair near the boundary line, 25-year old Rubel cheered his teammates all through the tournament. He would climb off his seat every now and then to kneel on the field to take a closer look at the game. Despite being only in the reserve squad, Rubel experienced limitless excitement: "Cricket can be enjoyed and played by people of all abilities. Our performance will help to dispel the society’s negative attitude towards people with disabilities."
At nine months of age, Rubel had contracted polio, which severely affected his mobility. But physical impairment did not stop him leading an inclusive cricket team in his neighbourhood and becoming an occupational therapy assistant.
The tournament in Savar was played in a T-20 format using both tape and deuce balls. The rules were the same as for traditional matches. DSS won the tournament by 2-1; but the DSS coach, Haroon Rashid, believes that the real reward for the players goes beyond the immediate results of the game. Rashid, who has trained young people with disabilities from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for over a decade, explains: "Cricket is a confidence booster for these young men. It helps them to focus on their potential rather than their shortcomings."
For the March tournament, the ICRC provided the participants of the CRP with cricket kits. Assistant manager of the ICRC physical rehabilitation programme in Bangladesh, Mahfuzur Rahman, says: "Physical rehabilitation helps to restore the dignity of people with disabilities. Social inclusion through sports and vocational training is an important vector in that process."
The ICRC has been providing technical and financial support to the CRP since 2003. This year, about 900 patients at the CRP centres in Savar and Chittagong will receive high-quality and affordable artificial limbs.
As for Rubel, after having received treatment and vocational training at the CRP, he now makes assistive devices for other people with disabilities. His dream is to open his own medical centre sometime in the future. What a personal victory that would be!