This is part two of a four-part series from U.K. Broadcaster and ex-Paralympian Ade Adepitan. Ade recently went back to his birth country of Nigeria to see why kids in his country were still getting polio.
Going back to Nigeria to learn about polio was an incredibly humble experience. In Nigeria seeing people who have had polio is the norm; they ride through the dusty chaotic streets on homemade skateboards. Low to the ground they glide effortlessly through the dense Lagos traffic, Shaun White or Tony Hawks would be in awe of their abilities. They’re usually lean, muscular and their eyes tell the story of a hard existence. The streets and roads they ride through are dirty sometimes you’re better off not looking at what’s beneath your wheels so flip flops are worn on their hands for protection.
Every disabled person I’d meet would check out my custom made titanium wheelchair, one of the NAS warriors a para-soccer player called my wheelchair a Rolls Royce. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when I told him he could have a go. I couldn’t believe most of the disabled people I met had never sat in a wheelchair before let alone a top of the range chair like mine.
It was a surreal and emotional experience to be playing sport with my new friends in Lagos and thinking of how my life would be different.
My journey wasn’t all doom and gloom, I met some truly incredible characters there were the para-soccer guy; The NAS warriors they’re a team based in Agege on the outskirts of Lagos. There was also the Boys under the bridge. This was a group of guys all victims of polio who lived under a motorway bridge in the center of Lagos. They all played a dynamic and extremely watchable sport called para-soccer. You need to check out this video.
They propelled themselves across the court at tremendous speeds knocking each other off their boards and trying to score a goal past the opposition. The goalie was usually a player who had some leg movement and could stand. The best way to describe the sport would be a cross between ice hockey, soccer, and American football. I even had a go on the skateboards it wasn’t easy and I provided everybody with a lot of amusement. In a souped up sports wheelchair I was king, but on a skateboard I was more like a clown!
It was a surreal and emotional experience to be playing sport with my new friends in Lagos and thinking of how my life would be different. What I saw next in Northern Nigeria, the area where polio remains a problem, may have had an even bigger emotional impact.
Find out tomorrow in Part 3: Back to Nigeria, Polio in Northern Nigeria to find out why meeting one young father and son had such an emotional impact on Ade.
To find out more about global polio eradication efforts and join the fight, please visit www.endpolionow.org or www.polioeradication.org