In a tournament where every single competitor has had to overcome unbelievable odds, Indonesia’s Eman Sulaeman, 27, from West Java stands out.
The crowds at the Homeless World Cup were captivated by the Sulaeman’s heroics between the sticks for his country. He directs his defense like a drill sergeant, and most importantly he enjoys what he does. Throw in his incredible flexibility, anticipation of the strikers’ shot trajectories and fine distribution to his outfield players and you have an outstanding goalkeeper. His goalkeeping hero is Edwin Van Der Sar, and it’s easy to see that he has modeled his game on him.
To an inexperienced observer, Sulaeman’s ability to play the game should be negatively affected by his disability—he was born without feet. He explains how this is far from the case: “When I speak to others they say how not normal it is for someone like me to play football so well. But for me it’s totally normal. I just love football and I’ve been playing it since I was a kid. Some people may think I am extraordinary when they see me play, but to me I’m just a normal person.”
“I’ve been inspired to get involved with the Indonesian team since 2014 when I became aware of their participation in the Homeless World Cup. This year I was able to try out for the team and thanks to god I was able to come here and play for Indonesia.”
It’s the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the game he has been playing since he was a child. “Basically I love football so much. It has allowed me to overcome barriers such as discrimination, which I have faced since I was a child.
“I come form a poor family and have lived in my poverty so it has been difficult for me. But I’ve always tried to do my best and learn how I can develop myself to overcome these problems. Finally I can handle everything, because football has given me confidence in my life.”
By Gregor Dow
Photography by Anita Milas