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Skate Soccer: The Next Paralympic Sport?

Ghanaian polio survivors pioneer extreme sports combination of skating and soccer

Skate soccer wasn’t be featured at this month’s Paralympics, but a new documentary aims to raise the profile of the bruising new sport.

Rollaball will tell the story of The Rolling Rockets, an inspiring team of Ghanaian polio survivors who are pioneering an extreme sport combination of skating and soccer.

Coach Albert K. Frimpong explains, “The first game of skate soccer was in Lagos, Nigeria, but it’s now spread throughout West Africa. We played our first international game recently against Nigeria and are hoping to host an Africa Cup of Nations next year.”

Big World Cinema’s Steven Markovitz is producing the documentary, which is currently crowdsourcing production funding via Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.

Steven co-founded Encounters, Africa’s most prestigious documentary festival, and is one of the continent’s most respected producers. He co-produced MTV’s Best African Movie 2010, Viva Riva!, and produced the upcoming Jambula Tree, winner of the Arte Prize for Best Feature Film Project at Durban International Film Festival 2012.

Steven says, “Who decides which sports are played at the Paralympics and what criteria are used? Skate soccer is one of the most gripping sports I’ve ever seen, so it’s a shame that its inspiring athletes won’t be represented at the games, purely because until now the players haven’t had the resources available to campaign successfully for its inclusion. We want this documentary to help change that.”

Rollaball received production funding from The National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, won the Britdoc/PUMA Creative Catalyst Award in 2011, and was selected out of 571 entries for the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2012, but Steven says the current funding landscape means producers need to be more innovative than ever before. “Kickstarter is revolutionizing the film industry, because it allows the audience to take control of the commissioning process and fund what they want to watch. We’re one of the first African production companies to embrace Kickstarter, so if this works we could change the funding landscape for our industry, as well as the lives of the players.”

Rollaball is being directed by Eddie Edwards, who also helmed the award-winning sports documentary The Fight, about South African boxing champion Andile Tshongolo.

Eddie says, “When I first met the team two years ago, I knew they were something special. These guys face massive challenges off the pitch, as polio is still stigmatized in Ghana, so many of them live on the streets and beg for a living. But despite all the odds, they’re incredible athletes who deserve to be stars. They have inspired something in me and I believe they’ll inspire many others. Both on and off the field, their stories are legendary.”

To help make the completed documentary possible, visit www.kickstarter.com/rollaballmovie.

Sulley Muntari, Black Stars and AC Milan Footballer

“Sport is such an important part of life for everyone, keeping them healthy and bringing people together no matter what age, sex, ability or disability. The ‘Rollaball’ film about an inspiring team of Ghanaian polio survivors who are pioneering an extreme sport combination of skating and soccer is a really inspirational story showing how courage and determination prevail . I always wanted to be a footballer and never let anything stand in my way, so i have the greatest admiration and respect for these guys playing sport with more barriers to success than most. This film also plays a vital role in highlighting the massive challenges that people suffering from polio face, especially in Ghana where it is still stigmatized, and many have to resort to begging and living on the streets to survive. I wish the best of luck to everyone behind the film, particularly the inspiring individuals who have shared their story with the world.”

Javed Abidi, World Chair, Disabled People International

“Rollaball is an inspirational film that shows that no matter how hard life may be, sport can be liberating. It’s heartbreaking to see what these men have to do to survive on a daily basis – dodging in between busy traffic to beg for money to hold body and soul together. But when Sunday comes all is forgotten in the thrill of playing skate soccer, a game that makes them feel totally alive. Their ingenuity in adapting equipment makes for a fast and furious game on the streets. It’s exciting to watch and it really deserves a far wider audience. And who knows, it could one day be a sport to inspire persons with disability all over the world, and take its place alongside wheel rugby and basketball. For its not where these men live but how they live that will cause us to put life into perspective.”

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