Harare - Disabled footballer Kudakwashe Mapira of Zimbabwe has been appointed one of three global ambassadors of Para Football,
Para Football, which was founded in 2020, promotes soccer among disabled athletes and seeks equal opportunities for all players of the world’s most popular sport.
Mapira (30), who has one foot, was appointed an ambassador along with two footballers Alex Sanchez and Eunate Arrazia.
Born without a right hand, Sanchez rose to fame in 2009 when he became the first disabled player to play a professional match when he made his debut for Real Zaragoza against Valencia.
Arrazia is a female footballer who plays for Athletic Club in Spain. The 29-year-old defender has played more than 200 matches for the Spanish Primera Division side, and made her debut for the Spanish women’s national team in 2017.
Mapira become the first disabled footballer to represent Zimbabwe at the Homeless World Cup in 2018. He was born without a left foot and knuckles on his left hand.
“Life has not been a bed of roses, for me to be where I am today has been tough,” he said after his appointment as an ambassador for Para Football. "I have worked hard to be where I am today, and I want to continue to inspire other people living with disabilities to believe in themselves.
“I am humbled to be one of the three World Ambassadors of Para Football, it is a great honour as I never expected anything like this to happen. This opportunity that I have been accorded by Para Football will help me a lot to network with people from different countries and help me grow as an athlete.”
He said he had played football since age six, but clubs repeatedly turned him down because of his disability.
“I never lost hope, I have always wanted to write my own name in Zimbabwe’s football history and I am glad that I am writing my own history as a disabled footballer. With my appointment as Para Football ambassador, I will use the opportunity to share my story with other disabled athletes and inspire them to achieve their dreams despite of their conditions,” said Mapira.
Para Football co-founder Sam Turner told The Southern Times Sport from his base in England that the foundation wanted Mapira’s story to spur other disabled players to achieve their dreams.
“With player ambassadors such as Kuda, we want to inspire others to follow their dreams to play football and overcome their challenges. Through sharing Kuda’s journey and story, hopefully others will believe in themselves also,” Turner.