I was born lame; my mother told me, my right leg was shorter than my left leg
Damastin Ojok is an amputee football star who dreams of becoming a professional superstar. He plays with passion and summersaults whenever his team scores. Phionah Nassanga caught up with him.
Briefly tell us about yourself
My name is Damastin Ojok. I am 13 years old, I am in Primary Six at St. Matia Mulumba Kireka Primary School. I am the first born in my family and I am passionate about playing football.
How did you lose your leg?
I was born lame; my mother told me, my right leg was shorter than my left leg. When I grew up the doctors asked my mother to buy me an artificial leg I put on while walking.
What is the name of the game you play?
I play what is called amputee soccer. It is played by people with disability, like me.
When did you start playing it?
I started playing amputee football in 2015, I was in Primary Three. While I was playing football with my friends at home with my artificial leg, coach Samuel Onyango saw me and asked me to take him to my mother. With my mother’s permission, he started training me how to play amputee football (using crutches).
What inspired you into playing amputee football?
I love football and I would not mind playing with children who have both legs but since the coach introduced me to amputee football I have met other children with disabilities, like me, who play the game so well with the support of crutches. This helped me realise that I can also do it.
How different is amputee football from the usual football?
Amputee football is a sport for people with disabilities (usually with one leg amputated). Each team has six outfield players plus a goalkeeper (usually with both legs, but one arm). We are not allowed to use our crutches to stop the ball. It is penalised as ‘handball’. The field is 60 metres by 30 metres.
Tell us about your first experience playing amputee football.
It was not very hard for me to learn because I had tried playing football before, though not with support of crutches. And I learnt that when you listen to instructions amputee football becomes easy.
Who is your best amputee football player?
Jamie Tregaskiss, the striker for Manchester City (in England). He lost his leg when he was 13 years due to cancer but he is one of the best in the world.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have high hopes that in the next 10 years I will be a star being watched on TV, with a big following for my team. I also want to play with nondisabled players to show them my skills.
What challenges do you face?
The biggest challenge is that many people do not know about this game, so we do not have many fans yet we also have skills that the people need to see and appreciate.
Tell us about the tournaments you have taken part in?
I have played in many tournaments here in Kampala, Gulu, Busia, Hoima and Kenya. On September 25, we shall be playing at the Annual Disability Sports Gala in Mbarara.
Have you won any medals?
Personally, I have not won any medals but on August 30, we won a trophy as the best team at the Rena Annual Talent Expo at Mengo SS.
What have been your best and worst moments?
My best moments were when I met the US ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac during one of our tournaments in Lugogo. The other moment was when I played in Kenya. The worst moment was when I fell and hurt my disabled leg. I did not continue.
How do you balance between school and playing amputee soccer?
Most of the tournaments I attend are during holidays. In case one comes up when I am at school, my coach informs the school in times. When I return to school, the teachers explain what I missed.
If you had both your legs, how do you imagine your life would be?
I would get involved in a number of activities both at home and at school. But now my choices are limited.
Do you play any other sports?
Apart from amputee football, I formed a team with my agemates to play normal football. I have also started rowing which is a water sport.
What do you want to be in future?
I want to be a doctor to help sick people, including those who have no money. My mother told me that when she found out I was lame, the doctors supported and advised her on how to raise me with a positive attitude towards life.
Any advice to fellow children
Being disabled should not stop anyone from chasing their dreams. Try whatever you think can help you become a better person. Those who love sports can try amputee football, sitting volleyball, boccia and more (adaptive) games.