21 September 2017

Blind footballers lose but win hearts: Nazir impressed by team in match against Laos
Media Title: The Star
Section: Nation

BUKIT JALIL: The national blind football team suffered a huge blow at the Asean Para Games but received support from CIMB Group Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak.

The team was edged out 2-1 by Laos yesterday, ending its hopes of defending the gold medal. 

Many of the players slumped to the ground in tears after the final whistle ended their dream run. 

"Our boys tried extremely hard, and it was tough seeing the disappointment on their faces," said Nazir, who was watching from the stands. 

"CIMB Foundation will help them with their training and additional resources, so they can be the best. We're all very proud that we have another sport Malaysia can excel in." 

Nazir said CIMB Foundation would work with the award-winning R.AGE team to produce Eye On The Ball, a feature-length documentary on the blind football team's bid to reach the 2018 Blind Football World Championship. 

The documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Chen Yih Wen, will be released in 2018 as part of a R.AGE and CIMB Foundation campaign supporting equal opportunities for people with disabilities, mainly through sports programmes. 

"We're proud to be supportive (of Eye On The Ball)," said Nazir. "It sounds like a good initiative - I'd like to hear more about the players' stories. 

"I was very impressed by them, especially the skills of No. 9 Mohd Amirul Arif (team captain). His close ball control was phenomenal. He looked like Messi!" 

R.AGE has been following the players for over a year, to document the challenges they've overcome in order to become national athletes. 

Coach Sunny Shalesh brought the players together in 2009 as part-timers, and they travelled every weekend from across the country to attend training. 

"I was most impressed by the team's grit and determination," said CIMB Group Chief People Officer Datuk Hamidah Naziadin. 

"They may not have won today, but you could see they were really going all out, and that's what really matters." 

Nazir was disappointed that there weren't many supporters for the matches. 

"More Malaysians should come and watch," he said. "My two biggest regrets are that I didn't come earlier, and I didn't bring my children. 

"I encourage all parents to come with their kids, because it'll help them appreciate what they have, and be inspired by what these footballers have done despite being differently abled." 

The team will play Vietnam for the bronze medal at 8.30am at Bukit Jalil Hockey Stadium tomorrow. 

To follow the team's progress and for more info on Eye On The Ball, go to facebook.com/EyeOnTheBallFilm.

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