Haitian amputee soccer team show their skills in Denver
By Marianne Medlin

.- Team Zaryen, a group of amputee soccer players who lost limbs in the devastating Haiti earthquake last year, demonstrated their impressive skills at the Knights of Columbus' convention in Denver, Colorado on August 1.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who visited Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath, praised the players for their determination on Aug. 1 and noted the “greatness of the people of Haiti” and their “faithfulness and generosity of spirit.”

Port-au-Prince's Team Zaryen is made up of players who received prosthetic devices through a partnership between the Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare.

At a press conference on Aug. 1 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver, the players moved around on crutches kicking a soccer ball with a strength and swiftness that surpasses most average players. 

Coach Cedieu Fortilis told CNA that the team formed in September of 2010 and since then, has attracted about 40 members.

He said the community in Haiti, as well as everyone they encounter in their travels, are fascinated watching them play since “no one expects amputees to be able to do this.”

“There are no words,” he added, “to describe the blessing that the Knights of Columbus have been for us.”

Fortilis noted that the players chose the word “Zaryen” as their team name since it is the Creole word for Tarantula – a spider known to keep thriving even after the loss of a leg.

The team also announced that they will tour the U.S. this fall to run soccer clinics for wounded members of the U.S. Military.

“Following the earthquake there was a tremendous outpouring of support from the people of the United States, much of it coordinated by America's armed forces,” said Dr. Robert Gailey, director of rehabilitation services for Project Medishare.

“Team Zaryen is now looking to return the favor by running clinics for wounded American services members this fall in the United States,” Gailey said, “and we are honored to be working together with the Knights of Columbus to assist these young people in Haiti and to be providing these clinics for the U.S. Military.”

Gailey noted that a primary reason the soccer team was formed was to help remove the social stigma associated with being an amputee in Haitian society. The players also hope that their example will inspire local youth to overcome obstacles and view their lives as filled with limitless opportunities. 

The tour will be co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare's “Healing Haiti's Children” program. The knights have donated more than $1 million to the program since its inception.

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