Futbol

Costa Rica's amputee soccer team nears goal of playing for world title

San Jose, Oct 22 (EFE).- Costa Rica's amputee soccer team is close to playing for their first world title and making their dreams come true.

Each player has a story of survival to share, telling anyone who will listen how an unexpected disability turned them into athletes and fighters.

"I've gained a lot from this team, it's given me power. I no longer stay in bed, a bed from which I thought I would never get up. Today, with sacrifice and discipline, I go to work and train afterward," team captain Roman Sanchez told EFE.

The 45-year-old player was in a motorcycle accident in 2004 and after many operations and complications, doctors amputated his leg in 2014.

He now works for a construction materials company, where he uses a prosthetic leg to do his job, but that is not an excuse for him to miss a day at the gym or a team practice.

Midfielder Victor Mendoza, 38, and central defender Gustavo Molina, 33, also lost legs to motorcycle accidents.

Joshua Santana, 28, was injured at a bullfight and had to undergo more than 18 operations to save his leg, which was eventually amputated in 2016.

Former professional soccer player Harold Villalobos retired five years ago and now coaches the team with Jhanny Flores.

Villalobos and Flores formed the team three years ago as an academic project to give people with disabilities an opportunity to play sports.

Amputee soccer is a demanding Paralympic sport played in two 25-minute periods with teams of seven.

Each player, with the exception of the goalkeeper, who must have both legs but an amputated hand, uses a pair of crutches to cover the field.

Touching the ball with a crutch is considered a foul.

The 15-member team has been practicing intensely since April to represent Costa Rica at the World Cup, which starts on Oct. 24 in Mexico.

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