After losing an arm in street fights between Government troops and the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel forces in 2003, Joseph Allen would be forgiven for harbouring anger against his enemies. But not only has he put the past behind him, he now plays football with some of the men he once fought against all those years ago.
The game of soccer has united men who once vied for one another’s blood in the streets of Monrovia during the civil war. 14 years of fighting in Liberia killed more than 250,000 people, and it is a testament to the unifying force of football that ex-combatants can learn to work together as a team.
Joseph lost his arm when he sought refuge in a camp for displaced persons. An explosion erupted at the shelter and his arm was later amputated at the John F. Kennedy government hospital in Monrovia.
Despite his injury, Joseph has gone on to make a name for himself as a greatly talented soccer player. He has been ranked the world’s top amputee goal keeper and plays for the National Amputee Football Team in Liberia. Once a top striker, he has had to learn a new position and go on a journey of healing that has enabled him to stand side by side with men he once called enemies.
Football has played a significant role in bringing together those who previously fought on opposite sides of a political divide. It has reconciled differences that the men were at one stage willing to die to defend. Now, the players train together, eat together, go to one another’s houses and do whatever it takes for their team to be victorious.