DALLAS — Helping a team of
amputee soccer players get to their World Cup venue might not seem like
disaster relief, but Dick Talley with Texas
Baptist Men (TBM) said that is exactly what it is.
“We see this as an extension
of our disaster-relief ministry,” Talley said. “In Haiti, if you have (a choice
between feeding) a dog and a handicapped person, you feed the dog because it
“How do we change the way
the people of Haiti look at an amputee or handicapped person? We’re trying to
do that through sport. In the eyes of the people of Haiti, we are elevating the
value of these people.”
Fred Sorrells of First
Baptist Church in Kingsland, Texas, worked with handicapped people in
Haiti even before the Jan. 12 earthquake there swelled their numbers.
“In Haiti, to be disabled is
to be castoff. The general feeling is, ‘Why don’t you just go off somewhere and
die?’” he said.
Recognizing the importance
of sports in Haiti, he began searching the Internet for a viable sport for
people with disabilities and came across the World
Amputee Soccer Association. As he began to inquire about it, Sorrells
said, he essentially was told there was no way he could get a team together in
time for the association’s World Cup.
Along about that time,
Sorrells learned that Haiti’s national soccer team was in Texas, and he went
there to see if he could enlist some help.
“I just showed up and asked
if there were any Christians on the team and learned their captain was a very
devout Christian,” he recalled.
Team Captain Pierre Bruny
immediately was interested. Upon his return to Haiti, Bruny began visiting
hospitals to invite amputees to try out for the team.
After several days of
tryouts, the Haitian national amputee soccer team was selected Aug. 14.
The next major hurdle involved
securing birth certificates, passports and visas in a country were so many
records had been destroyed, but eventually all were obtained.
Texas Baptist Men paid for
the air transport of the team from Haiti to Dallas. FC Dallas, the city’s
professional soccer team, put them up in hotel accommodations and provided
meals and transportation.
Local media reported on the
team, and donations began to come in, but still the team did not have the funds
necessary to fly to Crespo, Argentina, for the World Cup where they would play
teams from Argentina, Japan, France and Ukraine in their opening pool. In all,
14 teams are competing for the title.
Texas Baptist Men agreed to
step in again when the team did not have the money for the flight.
“People are starting to
donate, but not fast enough to get them to Argentina, so we are guaranteeing
the tickets, and then we will reimburse as the money becomes available,” Talley
But he was quick to not take
all the credit for the team’s getting the opportunity to play. While TBM had
handled this hurdle, others had helped at other points along the way.
“There are several groups
that are helping, we’re just a spoke in the wheel,” Talley said.
Sorrells said he expects TBM
to be fully reimbursed.
“We’re doing it as a step of
faith that people will hear about this team and make a donation. We really
believe we’ll be able to pay every penny of what they’ve given us back,” he
In amputee soccer, players
can only use a non-amputated limb to strike the ball. Field players must be
missing some portion of a leg, and goalies must be missing some portion of an
“Because some may only be
missing a hand or foot while others may have lost much more of the limb, only
the whole arm or leg can be used to touch the ball,” Sorrells explained.
Field players use crutches
that wrap around their forearms for their mobility. For more information and
video of the game, see here.
There also are opportunities to contribute on the site.
“We know we are the David
among the Goliaths, because we have not played an official game yet,” he said.
Sorrells’ organization, International
Institute of Sport, focuses on helping the handicapped be as involved in
athletic competition as they wish. He particularly is involved in the
Paralympic Games and Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Sorrells believes the Great
Commission is not only in Matthew 28. It also is in Luke 14:21-23: “The servant
came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became
angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of
the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’
the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and
make them come in, so that my house will be full.’”
“That’s what I’m trying to
do — help the poor, crippled, blind and lame to know Jesus Christ,” Sorrells
Seven of the Haitian amputee
team now are Christians. Once their World Cup experience is completed, Talley
said they will be trained in water purification so that they can help in future
“The first casualty of a
disaster is hope,” Talley said. “They’re going to be able to tell other
earthquake survivors that there is hope, that there is life after an
earthquake, and they are proof of it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Henson is a staff writer for
the Texas Baptist Standard.)