The specials are still waiting for the safety net

After outstanding outings on the international circuit, the Pabna special athletes wish to shine at the next Special Olympics World Summer Games in Germany in 2023. Despite their international success, however, the appropriate measures to bring them to a traditional sports structure n have not yet been executed.

In Bangladesh and elsewhere, children with special needs face enormous challenges while struggling against social constraints, but sport seems to have become an outlet through which these individuals can express themselves and discover many hidden talents, often neglected, in the process.

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Sadia Khan Shetu, who won a gold medal in floor hockey at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, was born as a special child with an intellectual disability. As a result, she was not treated well in her family from an early age.

The plight of his mother, Aleya, had worsened after the birth of another special child, this time a boy, who was also deaf and could not speak. To further add to her miseries, her husband left the family and remarried.

Despite the difficulties and challenges of raising special children, Aleya is now proud of her daughter, Shetu, who won another medal at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates.

Shetu is now honing his basketball skills for the upcoming tournament in Germany and has inspired his brother, who is testing his craft in handball, to join as well.

Aleya said: “My children are special children, who have never received love or support, but they have divine sports qualities.

“Their glorious performances have now brought happiness in the family as well as in society.”

Mohirunnesa Begum, the mother of Chadni Khatun who won gold in a basketball tournament in the United Arab Emirates, said her daughter is now aiming to give birth in Germany.

“As the mother of a special child, I have often been criticized. My daughter, often neglected in her family and in society, now brings the light of hope to my poor family.” Mohirunnesa said, adding that no special child should be overlooked.

29 special children with Down syndrome and mental disabilities are currently preparing for the mission in Germany by camping in Pabna under the supervision of the Special Olympics organization in the district.

Rejaul Hossain Badsha, Director of Bangladesh Special Olympics and General Secretary of Special Olympics Pabna Sub-Chapter, spoke to the Daily Star about the preparations of the special players.

“We started training camps earlier this year at Pabna Stadium, involving 40 children from two schools for special children. We then shortlisted 29 special players, including 14 gold medalists for the upcoming World Games. summer in 2023.” Badsha told the Daily Star, as he addressed the challenge behind running year-round camps – providing sports facilities and nutrition, among other things – due to financial constraints.

“We are struggling to continue boot camps with local funding. We need government support so we can expand our program to bring more special children into the facility,” Badsha added.

Looking back, the Pabna sub-chapter of Special Olympics Bangladesh started its journey in 2010. Since then, the district’s special players have won 14 gold medals, six silver medals and three bronze medals in the Olympic Games. Pacific (2013), Special Olympics World Games (2015), World Winter Games (2017) and World Summer Games (2019).

Most of these special players come from low-income families, who cannot afford private schools let alone meet the sporting needs of their children. But the success that these special athletes have brought gives them the conviction to improve their lives.

Konok Khatun, a handball player, told the Daily Star: “Due to our physical disabilities, we have no hope in life. I have found my dream. I want to establish myself as a handball player in country’s success.

Meanwhile, swimming champion Zuthi Akter, who is preparing for another triumph in Germany, has expressed concerns about her family’s ability to support her.

“I love swimming, I want to continue my swimming career but my family doesn’t have enough capacity,” Zuthi said using sign language.

Zuthi and most special athletes have a desire to pursue their sports careers but they want to do it professionally. However, these players do not have centralized means of income. The only means of financial gain they have achieved so far was courtesy of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who presented them with cash prizes at the end of the tournaments.

In the end, despite the medals and accolades won for the country, it is quite unfortunate that these special players have yet to find the financial safety net when Bangladesh still holds the undesirable record of being the most most populous to have never won an Olympic medal. .

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