PSLA Student Selected to Play for US National Amputee Soccer TeamMusabwa Nzirimwo started playing soccer in Africa in 2014. It was a popular sport, so in his free time, he and his friends would play for fun. In 2015, he came to America, where he joined the Tillie’s Touch recreational league as well as the JV team at PSLA at Fowler.
“I like that it requires teamwork, and it keeps me motivated,” Musa explained. “Soccer has taught me how to work as part of a team and how to deal with the ups and downs of life.”
Musa knows a thing or two about life’s challenges: he is an amputee, having lost a leg at seven years old when a bomb blew up in front of him in Congo, where he is from. Wearing a prosthetic, he has continued his passion for soccer. It hasn’t been easy, he noted, explaining that he had to learn to walk and run all over again.
But his efforts have paid off: he was recently selected to play for the US National Amputee Soccer Team! He has already played several times with the team, traveling about twice a month to New York City – leaving on a Friday after school and returning home on Sunday. He’s the youngest on the team, and said the experience has been everything he had hoped.
“My experience as an amputee player is enjoyable,” Musa said. “I get to play with people who are similar to me and it's fun because I get to be myself. It means everything to me to be selected to join the National team because this is what I’ve always wanted to do in the future.”
Zarina Smith and her husband, Vincent Forester, are family friends who have helped support Musa through the years. Ms. Smith has even volunteered to drive Musa to and from games, with fundraising support provided by Tillie’s Touch. She said that seeing the positive changes in Musa as he begun playing with other amputees has been fulfilling in and of itself.
“When we went to Long Island for Musa to scrimmage with the team, he said it was the best day of his life,” Ms. Smith said. “Right away, he met a teammate in the parking lot, who has been to the World Cup for amputee soccer. The things they were talking about… they really connected. [With the team,] he plays with crutches, and it’s almost like he is set free. He plays on his prosthetic leg amazingly, but it’s heavy and it’s hard. This is the start of a great adventure… it has been a real journey of self acceptance for him. We’re all riding this high of excitement for Musa!”
Musa joined Tillie’s Touch to play recreationally several years ago, where Coach Dale Johnson has watched him grow. Coach Johnson agreed that the National team selection is just the beginning for this talented young athlete.
“Musa truly has a gift as a soccer player,” Coach Johnson said. “His determination is just incredible. He comes back week after week, practice after practice, game after game, with a fire. It reveals a lot about his character. I share this John Wooden quote with my kids all the time, and I think it really nails Musa: ‘Sports don’t build character… they reveal it.’ In Musa’s case, soccer does reveal his character, his determination and his passion. I really believe this is just a sneak peek that we are seeing. We’re going to see more from Musa in the coming years! The kid is going to be successful in whatever he decides to do in life because of his grit, determination and hard work.”
PSLA at Fowler JV Soccer Coach Brian DaRin has coached Musa for two seasons now. He said that from day one working with Musa, the student has impressed everyone with his speed and skill level, as well as his work ethic.
He never misses practice, even though he's busy with other soccer clubs, too,” Coach DaRin said. “From what he's told me about what happened to him with his leg, it's such an incredible feat he has overcome. He truly is an inspiration to our whole Fowler soccer program. It is such a great feeling to see one of my players overcome such adversity and grow as an athlete and participate in something of this high caliber - the national team! I'm just super proud of him, as we all are at Fowler!”
“I think a lot about how far I have come, and it is amazing,” Musa said. “I have improved in my soccer, and family and friends are proud of me. My advice for others is to follow your dreams and never give up. Have supporters on your side. Mrs. Zarina Forester and all of my coaches have been a big impact to my growth as a soccer player, and I am very thankful for this achievement and for everyone who helped me get here.”
If you would like to contribute to help fund Musa’s travels to participate with the US National Amputee Soccer Team, please click here to donate to a GoFundMe set up by Tillie's Touch for this purpose.
(Photo provided courtesy of Rhonda Hawes at ShutterUp!)