The boy with the golden foot

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, meet Mohammad, an aspiring footballer

Antwan Chnkdji
a boy on crutches playing football
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Chnkdji
03 December 2020

“Running is the easiest and most fulfilling task for me,” says Mohammad, 13, outrunning his friends to the football field on crutches.

Born with a deformity in both his right leg and arm, Mohammad was medically advised to have his leg amputated five years ago, to be able to mount a prosthetic leg. However, due to the long years of conflict and displacement that have depleted their financial resources, his family could not afford one.

When he was only six years old, Mohammad and his family were forced to flee their home in Jbul village in rural Aleppo due to escalating violence, finally settling in the city after multiple displacements.

Mohammad’s love for football started at a very young age, when his father bought him a ball.

“It’s like something inside of me lit up when I held that ball,” he recalls. “Ever since, I wanted to become a famous football player.”

a boy on crutches
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Chnkdji
Mohammad, 13, on his way to the football field near his home in Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria.

When it was time for Mohammad to start school, he would watch his friends play football during recess. But whenever he joined them, his crutches would slow him down, leaving him unable to catch up with the ball, but making him more determined to master the game.

“I wanted to be number one; I wanted to become the team’s captain,” continues Mohammad, who trained day and night, and even signed up for a local football club where he started participating in tournaments.

“I was shocked and inspired by his determination,” says Ahmad, Mohammad’s coach. “It was a huge transformation; he is really one of our top players and everyone wants him on their team because they know he could help them win!” he adds.

Despite everything he has been through, Mohammad is also keen on continuing his education.

a boy on crutches talking to a volunteer
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Chnkdji
Mouhammad, 13, talking to a UNICEF-supported volunteer about his passion for football at a field in Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria.

“Whatever you go through, there’s no excuse to miss out on school,” says Mohammad who is now in Grade 8.

Recently, Mohammad started frequenting a UNICEF-supported centre for youth near his home where he signed-up for several courses on life skills and languages. The volunteers at the centre often attend his matches to cheer for him.

“I dream of one day playing in the world cup,” says Mohammad with a determined smile.