Ayman Maqbali
Ayman Maqbali had just worked his way to a hard-fought 4-3 win over arch-rivals Al Ain Club for the Disabled at the Seventh Nad Al Sheba Ramadan Sports Tournament. Image Credit: NAS

Dubai: Ayman Maqbali’s face lights up when requested for an interview. Born deaf and dumb, the 25-year-old from the Dubai Club for People with Determination (DCPD) had just worked his way to a hard-fought 4-3 win over arch-rivals Al Ain Club for the Disabled on the opening night of the Football for the Deaf at the Seventh Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Ramadan Sports Tournament.

“We are the champions this year,” he gestures using sign language through his coach Yahya Al Ammari.

“We want to win everything this year, and nothing is going to stop us,” he gesticulates further.

Maqbali’s DCPD won 4-3 against Al Ain, while Abu Dhabi swamped DCPD B 7-0 in the two matches of the competition played at the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) premises late on Saturday. A second round of preliminaries will be held on Tuesday (May 14), and Maqbali is confident his team can fare much better to advance to the May 21 final, possibly against Abu Dhabi.

Playing a free role in the DCPD midfield, Maqbali is no stranger to competition. He has already donned colours for the UAE in their failed quest for a spot in the football competition of the Summer Deaflympic Games last held in Samsun, Turkey from July 18-30, 2017. “We couldn’t qualify for Turkey,” Maqbali gestured.

“I was too young and didn’t understand the correct approach to a competition of this level. But now I am wiser and stronger and one of my goals definitely is to make it with the UAE team to the 2021 Deaflympics Games (venue yet to be decided),” he informed.

To qualify for the Games, athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels (db) in their better ear, while hearing aids and cochlear implants are not permitted to be used during competition so as to place all athletes on an identical level. With players unable to hear anything, referees need to wave flags and use their hands while officiating instead of blowing a whistle.

This is the fourth time that the football tournament is being held at NAS Sports, and organisers are effusive in their praise as competitions like these assist them in achieving long-term goals. “Our leaders show us the way all the time. The level of this competition is quite high and we can be confident of making it to the international stage in the not so distant future,” Ali Salem Al Marzouqi, the general coordinator for football for the hearing-impaired, told Gulf News.

“We have put together a national squad who, I felt, was unlucky the last time [qualifying for 2017 Samsun Deaflympics]. But they know they can do it for the next edition,” he related.

“These are normal people who need to be given the opportunity to bloom and show their talent before us the so-called ‘normal’ people. You cannot imagine what such a competition does to their confidence levels. I cannot express the joy I feel at being involved in an initiative like this,” Al Marzouqi stressed.