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Much more than football

The AMDDA players, photographed just before a match.                      :: alfonso cano
The AMDDA players, photographed just before a match. :: alfonso cano
  • One of the objectives of the association is to create a sports school for youngsters with any type of disability

  • AMDDA is the first Andalusian team of people with cerebral palsy to play in the National League

To say that the members of the AMDDA (Malaga Association for Diversity and Adapted Sport) are an example of effort and overcoming difficulties would be an understatement. The team, who from 18 February will be taking part in the first of the three stages of the National League competition organised by the Spanish Sports Federation for People with Cerebral Palsy and Acquired Cerebral Damage, consists of eight young men who have seen football as a way of leading a different sort of life.

They are very proud of being the first team to represent Andalucía in a competition of this type and they say they plan to give it everything they can. "We're not just going there for the experience. We want to do well in every match. The problem is that our rivals have more experience and there are not many of us, because many families are overprotective of their children and are reluctant to let them play sport," explains David Jiménez, the president of the Association, who won a bronze medal in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta 1996.

AMDDA was only set up a couple of months ago and, since then, its progress has been spectacular. During this time it has obtained support from six sponsors who will be financing part of the cost of travelling to Cáceres, Madrid and Barcelona; the European College is supporting them and lets them use its facilities to complete their training; and they now have Unicaja's Alberto Díaz as a sponsor. "For us, he is an example to follow because of the commitment and pride he shows in every one of his matches. There is nobody better to sponsor us than a sportsman from Malaga who makes the whole of the Martín Carpena stadium shout out his name," says the association's vice-president and co-founder, Alan Flores.

David Jiménez and Alan Flores, who are behind this project, have both loved sport all their lives but have had to face up to innumerable challenges. That is what led them to set up AMDDA. "In the long term, my objective is that no young man should have to go through what I have had to go through," explains David. "I have been playing with the Spanish seven-a-side football team for 12 years, but for a long time it was really difficult for me to have anything to do with sport."

The team coach is Carlos Narváez, who admits that he felt afraid before taking charge. "In the end I realised that I can do the same exercises with them as with any other adult team. The only difference is that they set the pace, because they all have different limitations. With some, for example, I have to work more on coordination. For the others, they are just like any other athletes, you give them instructions but they just go in one ear and out of the other," he laughs.

Overcoming difficulties

Behind each of the eight champions who make up AMDDA's seven-a-side team, there is a story of overcoming difficulties. Juan Pablo Amorano, known as 'JuanPi', for example, was told by a doctor that he would never be able to get out of his wheelchair. Today he is an important part of the team. "It doesn't matter how many times I fall over. I'll always get up again. I would advise everybody to take up sport. You have to carry on, even if your legs don't work well. I'm working very hard to achieve a dream and I am not going to give it up easily," he says, with a courage which is moving.

The short term aim of the founders of AMDDA is to consolidate the seven-a-side football team and create a school for children who want to practise some type of sport. However, their battle has only just begun because so far recruiting footballers has not exactly been a bed of roses, admits Alan Flores. "We're not looking for a Messi or a Maradona. We just want people who are enthusiastic and want to have fun. The problem is that many people with cerebral palsy or acquired cerebral damage are afraid. Sport, like life in general, is a continual battle, but you can't spend all day complaining," he says.

That's why he encourages AMDDA members to urge other people with disabilities of this type to join the association and take part in a training session. They all agree: nobody will regret doing so.