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ICT4D Week 2018

Friday, November 24, 2017

Michael Ishiguzo: Tale of love, ability in disability



WeekendSport@ITREALMS: 

 Michael Ishiguzo, aka Mi3 is a Nigerian amputee playing for Arsenal football team and in the England Amputee Football Association (EAFA) national league. In this chat with ITRealms Online, Michael shared his love, determination and travails in demonstration and affirmation that there is truly ability in disability.
Excerpts:
A footballer is born:
I am Michael Ishiguzo, aka Mi3. I give all glory, honour, adoration, exaltation and praise to Almighty God, my hope and my strength. In all humility I return all praises to his holy name for all that was, is and yet to be.

I am the only son of my parents Mr Kelvin Ishiguzo and Mrs Catherine Ishiguzo from Imo state, Nigeria. I lost my mother in December 31st 1989 and my father died February 1991.

Football is my life, it is the one thing that I think of in any situation, under any condition or circumstance, I eat, sleep, dream, think, imagine, discuss and play football and had great aspirations because all that I am is embedded in the beautiful game, football.

I have never thought of a day or a time that something else would engulf my entire being like football, because the joy of having the leather grace my feet is the most joyful and wonderful experience I can ever think of.

Little beginnings …:
From the days of little beginnings when before school hours early in the morning in Saint Finbarrs College in Akoka-Bariga, Lagos, playing with the school team before classes resumed every day and after school hours, myself and friends will play our hearts out and completely forget about time at a nearby field at home.
Oh! Such memories of how we tried out skills, tricks, passes and penalties into night fall, before heading home. I played in almost all the youth categories we had back then in Nigeria, the Under 10s, U13 and U15s before my amateur club in the LAFA league (Lagos State Football Association League).
My amateur career was awesome, especially, playing for Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL FC) tailoring my career into professionalism, I finally got a shot at professional football and I signed for Eagles Cement of Port Harcourt in 1996 where I played with some talented and amazing footballers, it is an honour to adorn the teams Green and White colors to represent in my best effort and that was crowned when Stationery Stores came for my services in 1997.
Exploits @Stationery Stores:
My movement to Stationery Stores, the equivalent to Arsenal FC London in terms of followership and fan base, brought more fame and recognition although the money was almost nothing, but I had media attention and mad love from the fans.
I also got a nickname out of my display of skill and play. The name "Cause Trouble" came to be the nickname. It’s not because I am too problematic to manage by the coach or referees, but I was giving my opponents too much to keep up with via my skills and pace, with the caliber of individuals that made up the team I would say; we were untouchable in the league, hence the attention grew further and I was eyeing a bigger dream because I believed in myself to reach the biggest height of my career as a footballer.
The club gave us all a short break and we all went to our various homes, I decided to go to Shell football ground at Adeniran Ogunsanya Lagos, which was my training ground before I made it into professional league to train with some of my friends and old teammates.
A volley from blind side:
It was during this training session, I can still remember, a cross came in from the right wing and I was dashing in from the outside left wing, it was a perfect trademark goal setting for me on a volley normally, as I was about to volley the ball I did not see the opposing defender lunging in with a high foot from my blind side, thus, it was too late to hold back. So, I followed through with the volley and clattered with his high foot.
Then it happened it was a volley I thought I was in the clear to take not knowing the defender was going to lunge in and that high too, so the collision was made and a loud sound of legs against each other was heard and realised I could not move my leg and I knew I had picked an injury almost immediately but did not know how serious it was, when I realised that my leg has broken completely into two, immediately I could see my whole life and dreams go up into the smoke.
Between Igbobi and trado-pedic:
Suggestions were made whether I should go to Igbobi, the National Orthopedic Hospital, but was countered by another saying Igbobi takes longer; and at that time it was almost unaffordable considering the facts that yes, we were playing in the professional league, but the money was barely enough to feed and pay house rents and look after oneself, we were playing for the joy and fame and hoping that we could finally make it by going abroad to showcase our talents, and that there is a trado-pedic who fixes such cases faster and more affordable too.
I was taken to the place and was told that the man in charge had retired back to his home town but his son said he is as good as his father because his father practically taught him the trade and so I became his ‘guinea pig’ offering him my leg to reinstate. He made worse the situation, so I had no other choice but to return to Igbobi, which was meant to be the first point of call, but alas I was told after checking the injury that it has been inflamed and developed Gangrene and is moving from its actual position upwards which translates that the affected leg needs to be amputated or I will lose my life.
I could not come to terms with the fact that my leg will be taken off, I mean amputated. I watch as my dream slipped off me and I can't comprehend the fact that it's reality staring me in the face.
My friends, Jerry Onuachu, Felix Akiojano among other footballers could not contain the sad story, I kept asking questions and I got no answers, why me? Why now? Where did I go wrong? Who did I offend amongst other thoughts, and with no other reason to stall the situation my leg was amputated on April 14th 1997.
A hard pill of April 14:
I had to come to terms with the fact that I cannot play professional football again but it was a hard pill to swallow, i got mad, angry, grumpy and depressed especially when my friends will come and check on me in the mornings before training sessions and evenings after training sessions. I felt left out in the cold and dejected because my whole life has been taken away from me, I did not want to see anyone because that will bring back memories which will translate to tears.
In all sincerity I was done and I convinced myself there was nothing more left for me to live for.
As I was recovering at home I started to put on weight; too much weight that I summoned the courage to go to the gym at the National Stadium, Surulere, to have a feel of the environment and to find a way to keep my weight down, but which honestly, only brought memories and uncontrollable tears to my eyes.
The angel Patrick:
I was in the gym when another amputee walked up to me in the person of Patrick Anieto, the national champion in amputee javelin and discus throws. He encouraged me to hold on to my dream of being a sportsman that if I cannot do my preferred sport, that I can at least make up elsewhere, that he knows amputees are being looked down on in our country but I can be different because he choose to be different too.
It was a hard decision to make, I always see the disabled athletes in the national stadium whenever I come to do my personal training and it was always a sorry sight. I used to feel sorry for them; they train with and in the worst circumstances any athlete could train in. Now how can I, a professional footballer well known come and join these guys sitting on bare floor and rickety chairs to throw javelin and shotput? It was hard to consider. But with my wounded pride, I took his advice and started training with him and other guys and was commended for my catching up and improvements and this was three months after I was discharged from the hospital.
A new athlete is born:
Four days into my taken up the sports, I competed in the Spinal Cord Association of Nigeria (SCAN) National championship and I place 4th in all my events (Javelin, Discuss and Shotput). With that result a new athlete was born.
I was selected to participate in the National Sports Festival that took place in my home state, Imo State, but represented Lagos State and right there I unseated my friend and national champion Patrick in the same sports festival, I won the gold medal with a new national record to my name in the class f42 Men’s Javelin, but felt bad to have won because I just took his glory away from him but was more shocked when he told me, “I deserved it and it was meant to be, if not so, he wouldn't have invited me to be part of the disabled athletes in the first place.”
That decision I thought was hard, happens to be the best decision I have ever made.
Thereafter, it has been from one game to another. I joined the Nigerian disabled athletics in late 1997 and by 1998, I represented Lagos State in the national sports festival, winning a gold in Javelin and Silver in discus. I also went to the All African Games in Johannesburg in 1999, winning silver in Javelin and silver in Discus. In the year 2000, I won 2 silver medals in javelin and discuss in the African Championship for disabled people in Tunisia.
In addition, I was a finalist in Javelin event in the Sydney 2000 paralympic games, but would have had a silver or possibly a gold if I had the enablement (artificial limb) as confirmed by the Australian sports committee.
Footballer re-emerged:
My dream of playing football re-emerged and I encouraged myself to keep the spirit alive; if I can take strange sports and successfully make something out of them, definitely another shot at football will not be a bad idea. So, I took the challenge and owned it like my life depended on it and as we speak I have the pleasure to say I currently play for Arsenal in the community amputee football team and playing in the England Amputee Football Association (EAFA) national league.
I also achieved a feat recently that has never been ventured by anyone on one leg and crutches, a record setting and a bench mark for other amputees to follow and possibly challenge. 
I am very passionate about helping and creating opportunities for Amputees and people with disability in Nigeria. So, I take it personally to host an Amputee football clinic and tournament in Nigeria to create awareness of the abilities in the disabled persons in Nigeria.
Next frontier:
I am seeking sponsorship from companies to organise this event and in return, I will use the event to promote supporting brands further in Nigeria and make them one of companies in Nigeria that actually cares about people with disability in Nigeria.
Mine is a story of tears, sweats and blood, struggle, pain, believe, motivation, support, love and determination. When situation seem to alter your course in life, that is when you need to plot a new one and be determined to work it out to be a reality.
Life will not give you what you think you deserve, rather you have to take it and be sure you have to fight to do so. Positivity has been the major key to my success story apart from God's grace. I learnt in my journey so far that when life throws you down, the only favour you owe yourself is to get back up and keep moving.
There is ability in disability.

*Banji Boye/GEE

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2 comments:

Felicitas Kapatou-Sieber said...

I have 'met' Michael first accidentally through his comment of a friend's post on fb, and then I have met him in person over coffee in London.
I believe Michael is such an inspiration to myself, as well as to countless others, because he is helping people believe they can conquer mountains, while they conquer themselves. He teaches by example!
Michael has won my complete admiration!

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