A Bangladeshi football fan who lost both his legs in a tragic train accident has used his passion for the game to teach himself a set of unique talents.
Mohammad Abdullah, 22, from Dhaka, the capital city, lost both his legs on a speeding train ten years ago.
But now the young man, who also works as a luggage porter at a ferry station, is making a name for himself with his football skills and rivals any able bodied player his age.
He said: ‘I never thought I’d be able to walk, never mind play football like a normal human being. When I was bound to that wheelchair I feared I might have to spend the rest of my life trapped. But eventually I decided to try and do without it. I was determined to be independent so I began trying to walk. I was tired of seeing myself in that helpless condition. I faced difficulties initially but succeeded eventually. Now I can walk, work and play football like other people.’
Abdullah was abandoned by his mother when he was just seven-years-old and he was raised by his father and step-mother before he ran away from home.
‘I missed my mother so much I ran away from home.’
But in 2001, Abdullah was traveling on a train and was trying to reach another carriage as the train was moving when he slipped and his legs got trapped under the wheels of the speeding train.
Abdullah was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where he received treatment. He eventually lost both his legs below the thigh.
Abdullah was alone at hospital and no one from his family made contact. Eventually the hospital authorities sent him to an orphanage as soon as he was strong enough. The orphanage admitted Abdullah to Barisal Yusuf School where he studied for 18 months but eventually he ran away again.
‘I was very lost, I didn’t know where I wanted to belong and I was scared of being trapped. I lived on the streets and my condition meant it was easy to beg. People saw my condition and always gave me money. But I wasn’t happy, I wanted something better for myself so with my strong arms and two hands I decided to try to work. I started hawking newspapers and I saved a little amount from the money I earned.’
Abdullah always had a love for football but when he lost his legs he lost interest in the game until he saw many boys on the street playing.
‘My interest in football re-gnited when I lived on the streets.’
Abdullah was eventually saved in 2003 by Aparajeyo Bangla, a non government organization that provides shelter for street kids, and they gave him a bed for the next ten years until they moved him to a shelter for older boys.
A football coach at Aparajeyo Bangla helped Abdullah pursue his football passion and encouraged him to practice.
He said: ‘There was a coach who was really into football and he used to encourage me, he was good for me, and he suggested I practice more and more. Eventually he started coaching me. I played with my hands at first but the other children suggested I play with my legs so I did. Over time I learnt to get better with my small legs.’
Abdullah now plays football at the National Stadium in Bangladesh on a basic level. Despite having no legs he can play a good game.
‘People are amazed when they see me play football.’
Abdullah would love to play professional football and idolizes Cristiano Ronaldo for his style, attitude and talent. But there are not opportunities for disabled sports in his area.
Abdullah also has to work as he has no family or friends to look after him so he can only dedicate a few hours a day to training.
For eight hours a day Abdullah works as a luggage porter at Sadarghat Terminal at the Central Ferry station, in Dhaka, and earns 100 taka (£1) a day in order to pay for his meals.
He said: ‘My shelter home provides one meal a day but for everything else I have to pay for it. So I have to work to earn money and buy food to live and carry on with my passion. I will starve if I do not work. I have no one to look after me or support me so I cannot play football all day.
‘If given a chance to play professionally, I will avail the offer by any means but who will ever help me? It is a dream to take my talents further but I can only dream about it.’