Cheers erupted on the sidelines of a practice field outside RFK Stadium as Sandy Jean Louis Louiseme, the youngest member of a Haitian soccer team composed entirely of amputees, dribbled toward the goal.
Amputee soccer has rhythms, and risks, all its own, which became clear when Louiseme collided with the goalie of the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team, crutches flying in every direction. Only after Louiseme sat up with a smile on his face did the crowd exhale.
Louiseme’s squad, Team Zaryen, scrimmaged with the U.S. national team Tuesday as part of a five-day “Haitian Inspiration Tour,” in which the amputees, victims of last year’s earthquake, held clinics in amputee soccer for U.S. service members who have lost legs while stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The clinics, held at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on Monday and the RFK practice field Tuesday, were the team’s way of thanking the U.S. military for its work evacuating and caring for victims of the disaster.
Amputee soccer was founded 30 years ago in Seattle by Don Bennett, a sportsman who lost his leg in a boating accident at age 42. Now, people who have lost a limb play the sport around the world, on crutches. All prosthetics are left on the sidelines to level the playing field.