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US coach trains S.Sudan wheelchair basketball team

© AFP | A South Sudanese basketball wheelchair player train at the Juba Basketball Court on January 11, 2017

JUBA (AFP) - 

An American coach on Wednesday began training South Sudanese wheelchair basketball players, saying the sport could offer hope and confidence to the disabled in the conflict-torn country.

Top wheelchair basketball coach Jess Markt is holding training sessions for ten days with the players, many of whom lost their legs during the war for independence from Sudan.

Markt urged the government of South Sudan to support the game as a means to give the disabled "confidence and give them the idea that they can accomplish more than what society thinks they can."

Despite winning independence in 2011, civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013 and violence has continued to tear the world's youngest nation apart.

Markt said that ongoing fighting meant "there are huge areas in the country where there are many disabled people who don't have the chance to play a wheelchair sport like basketball."

Carnelia Van Wijk, a physiotherapist with the International Committee of the Red Cross, who sponsored the training, said it is aimed at promoting sports for persons with disabilities.

One of the players, Peter Bol, 33, a former child soldier who lost his leg when he was 18, urged other disabled people to think of joining the sport.

"You know disability is not inability, it's physical. If it's physical, the person with disability can do everything that (the able-bodied) can do," he told AFP.

Another player and coach, Kim Bany Joak, said he hoped to make the country's team a professional one, to compete worldwide.

According to the country's 2008 census, there are over 450,000 people with disabilities in South Sudan, who rely on assistance from international organisations.

© 2017 AFP