No one felt the sting of defeat more than Sierra Leone captain Victor Musa when his side succumbed to Ghana in the semi-finals of the All-African Amputee Football Championship on 13 February. The 27-year-old lost his left leg in 1999, during the civil war, but rediscovered his love of life thanks to amputee football. Like all his team-mates, he had invested every last drop of hope in the competition.
Nicknamed 'Okocha' on account of his resemblance to the Nigerian legend JJ, Musa was delighted to speak to FIFA.com once the initial disappointment had faded. Read on as the Sierra Leone skipper shares his thoughts on the tournament and sheds light on his current situation and the war that cost him a leg. Proud to be back playing the game he loves, he comes across as a modest man but one whose dreams cannot be extinguished.
FIFA.com: Victor, the whole team were in tears after the
semi-final loss to Ghana. It must have been a highly emotional
Victor Musa: We were so disappointed not to have qualified for the Final, there's no denying it. I try not to look back in life, though. And Ghana may have won this first All-African Amputee Football Championship, but we know we'll bring the trophy home next time. We'll beat everyone: Liberia, Ghana or whoever else!
You were the hot favourites as pioneers of the sport in
Africa. What went wrong?
Not much, at the end of the day. We really thought we deserved that penalty in the semi-final, and that could have changed the whole face of the game. That's why we were so down afterwards. Then our officials reminded us we were the hosts of a historic event and, as such, we had to behave accordingly. I spoke to my players and told them it was important not to cause a stir. I said we had to forget about it, keep it to ourselves and move on. We did that by winning the match for third place (6-1 against Sierra Leone's B side).
What are your overall thoughts on the tournament?
We don't have the trophy, but we came away with courage and strength. We're proud to have hosted the first All-African Amputee Football Championship, and we're proud that Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana all took part. Whatever happened in the end, and even though we'd have preferred another outcome, we accept the result because more than anything we're all happy the event took place. Now we're looking to the future and Turkey, where we'll be competing in the World Championship at the end of the year.
How did you get involved in amputee football?
I started in 2001. I was at the camp for amputees in Aberdeen Road, Freetown, when an American woman, Mrs. Dee (Dee Malchow, amputee football pioneer), came to see us one day. She explained the game, showed us a video and told us the sport had existed in the USA since 1985. Once we saw that, we wanted to start a team straight away and that's what we did. Football saved me. I used to play the game a lot with friends at school before my injury, but I thought I'd never play again. In the end I was able to and now I have fresh hope in life.
What happened next?
In 2003, we spent a few weeks in England at a training course. We learnt the rules and played against a number of other teams. When we came back, we decided to continue the adventure and began training on Aberdeen beach, near the amputee camp where we lived. After that, we played at the World Championship in Brazil in 2005, then in Russia in 2006. Next, it was time to develop amputee football in Africa and we wanted to host the first African Championship. FIFA put their faith in us and gave us the funds to make it happen, which is why we tried to repay that trust by behaving in a proper manner.
Could you explain to us how you lost your leg?
I was shot by rebels during the civil war in 1999. I was going home from school in Daru, where I was born. It's about 200 miles east of Freetown. I was on my way home and they were blocking the road. They asked me to stop but I didn't want to, so I started running. They opened fire for no reason. My leg was in a really bad way and I was taken to the hospital in Freetown, where they had to amputate it. Once I'd been treated, I went to the amputee camp in Aberdeen, which is now Freetown's main market. That's where I found my friends, the ones now on the team. I don't have a family anymore: they're my family.
What do you do for a living?
I'm a technician. I can repair just about anything... a motor, anything really. I have a workshop and I try to get by with that. I still live in Aberdeen, even though the camp is no longer there. But that's where my friends are, my companions of misfortune. For the moment, I've got no desire to return to Daru, even if there's no place quite like home. I don't want to abandon my mates.
What are your hopes for the future?
I just hope God protects me and does right by me. And if he wants to make me a millionaire, then I'd be a very happy man! If he wants to give me a new leg or even if he just wants to let me have a great life thanks to football, then I'd be delighted. That's what I'm praying for, anyway!