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'Football really changed my life'

Watching these footballers with cerebral palsy bend the ball may just bend your mind at the Asean Para Games.

Update November 2015:

Shafiq, Peter and their teammates are raring to go for the Asean Para Games. 

After many months of tough training, they're ready to face the best cerebral palsy football teams in the region.

You can catch them in action at the Singapore National Stadium from 3-9 December. 

Entry is free, on a first-come-first-served basis. 

See the schedule of play or take a closer look at the CP football team.

Singapore's CP football team training for the Asean Para Games 2015. Picture by Wei Yuet Wong

Let's get this out of the way: these guys have cerebral palsy.

Now for what's important: they play a serious game of football.

It's a sweltering hot Sunday afternoon when I first meet the team at the Singapore Khalsa Association, where they train weekly.

The sun is relentless. The guys are seated on the edge of the pitch, their coach Mohammed Zainudeen holding court with a pep talk.

Today, they face another team in a friendly match. The game kicks off soon enough, and I am introduced to the world of cerebral palsy and sport.

For 60 minutes I see running, kicking, dribbling, passing, deft touches, shooting and scoring.

The common term is disability. But on the pitch, the truer words are talent, passion, teamwork and determination.

Off the pitch, they come together to celebrate another weekly game wholeheartedly executed. The camaraderie is apparent in the easy smiles, chatter and jokes.

Speaking to them  and listening in on their conversations, I immediately catch on that they want to talk about football, about school, about plans, about sport, about girls, about futures.

Not about their muscular condition.

They are footballers. There's no place in their lives for self-pity or resignation.

They are liberated, full members of society. And by the way, they bagged Singapore a silver medal at the 7th Asean Para Games in Myanmar.

They didn't choose to have cerebral palsy, but you can certainly tell when these footballers are on the pitch, that they've chosen to live life large and full.

Keep living it large, Bala, Firdaus, Harun, Hitesh, Khairul, Nizam, Mubarak, Peter, Shafiq, Shahidil, Suhaimi and Taufiq.

"Like" the team on Facebook to show your virtual support before heading down for their matches at the National Stadium. 

Shot and edited by Anshul Tiwari
Produced and written by Tsen-Waye Tay
Pictures by Wei Yuet Wong

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