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Africa’s Amputee Soccer Tournament Kicks Off
November 18, 2011
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The Cup of African Nations for Amputee Football that starts today in Accra, Ghana, is not your average soccer tournament. For one thing, each team presents only seven players per side, rather than the regular 11. More significantly, each of those players has only one leg - except for goalkeepers, who have only one hand. As the event's name states, this is a tournament for amputees, and it runs until November 26, when one of eight teams will be declared the African champion.

Amputee soccer is not unique to Africa - the sport's World Cup was held last year in Argentina - but on a continent where civil war and conflict have been a part of recent history, and where land mines still pose a significant risk, a sport for athletes with missing limbs has particular resonance.

Of course, large parts of Africa have not been subject to recent conflict, and many players are simply the victims of unfortunate accidents. Ghana's Francis Antwi-Darkwah lost his leg in a car crash, but he thinks that disabled people of all backgrounds benefit from the positive impressions created by his sport. "The community usually looks down on less privileged people," he told The Economist magazine.

The tournament's first match will be between host Ghana and Sierra Leone, which itself hosted the tournament in 2007. Other nations taking part include Angola, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

To get a better sense of how soccer can be played with only one leg, here are some of the highlights of the 2007 event:

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