Marzana Akter injured her legs in 2015 when she fell off a tree, and has been unable to walk since then. She has to move around in a wheelchair now, but her dreams are much bigger than her disability.
A nine-member team led by Marzana is now in the Indonesian city of Bali, to take part in the fifth Bali Cup International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament that began yesterday. Alongside the women's team, a men's team of wheelchair basketball players is also taking part in the five-nation tournament. Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP), a non-government organisation working for people with physical disabilities, has sent the two teams, patronised by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Bangladesh.
“This game has taught us not to give up. It made us feel equal and taught us to accept ourselves the way we are,” said Marzana, who sat for this year's HSC exam from Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Government Girls' High School and College in Dhaka.
Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos are participating in the tournament hosted by Bali Sports Foundation, which will conclude on July 15.
Nahid Parvez Tonmay, coach of both teams, said, “Last year, we could not do well in the four-nation international wheelchair basketball tournament, but this year we expect both teams to win the titles.”
Bangladesh men's team won the tri-nation tournament in 2014, the very first year it participated in an international contest, he noted.
“This is the second time that our women's team is participating in an international tournament after last year, while men's teams have participated in many competitions before”, he added.
Md Sabuz Miah, captain of Bangladesh men's team, who had his both legs injured as he fell from a four-storey building while working there as a construction worker in 2014 , said, “Playing basketball sitting on a wheelchair was very new to me and I learned it at CRP. There is a compulsory basketball class for every eligible indoor patient. I never knew that a wheelchair could bring me this far and initiate another beginning in my life.”
“We will try our best to win this tournament. This is my first international competition and I am very excited about it,” added Sabuz, who now works at Acme Laboratories Ltd.
Rubina Khatun, a second-year university student who is unable to walk after contracting polio, said, “Our attachment with it [the game] has given us mental strength, which we need the most. Moreover, we are representing Bangladesh; we will bear the national flag. The feeling encourages us, makes us feel proud and keeps us going.”
CRP Executive Director Maj Gen (retd) Shafiq-ul Islam told The Daily Star that the hospital has been working not only to cure ill people, but also to rehabilitate them and help them get included in the mainstream.
“We want the government as well as the society to come forward to support them,” he added.