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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 23:11 GMT
African amputees' cup kicks off
Sierra Leonean amputees play football on the beach

Africa's first amputee football cup has started in Sierra Leone, with the hosts beating Ghana 3-0 in the opening match.

Each of the five teams has six one-legged outfield players and a one-armed goalkeeper in the tournament, which is being sponsored by Fifa.

Many of the players taking part lost limbs during long-running civil wars in their countries.

Thousands of people had their arms or legs hacked off by rebels during Sierra Leone's conflict, which ended in 2002.

The BBC's Piers Edwards in Freetown says amputees can often be seen playing football along the beach near the capital.

Pride

Some 10,000 people watched the opening game between Sierra Leone and Ghana at the National Stadium in Freetown.

Sierra Leone coach Mose Mambu, whose brother lost a limb in the war, said before the match that he was confident his team would make the country proud.

Sierra Leone civil war amputees football team
I have confidence in my boys, although Nigeria has professional players
Mose Mambu
Sierra Leone team coach

"Our two-legged people are failures long since, we want to bring football back to life through these amputees," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Our correspondent says Sierra Leone has not been known for its footballing prowess and has only qualified for the African Nations Cup twice in its 50-year history.

"I have confidence in my boys, although Nigeria has professional players... we have the technical capability and we are the hosts," Mr Mambu said.

Sierra Leone had been scheduled to play Nigeria in the first game, but the Nigerian players are still on the road.

They have been driving all the way from Lagos and the trip will have taken them three days and three nights, our correspondent says.

The other teams taking part in the All-African Amputee Football Championship are Angola and Liberia.

Despite the end of Angola's long civil war, land-mines remain a serious problem there, with people going to their fields often losing limbs.

The winner of the competition will qualify for the Amputee World Football Championship taking place in Turkey later this year.

Sierra Leone came third in the 2005 World Cup.


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