TBI BLOGS: Meet Oliver D’Souza, India’s First Wheelchair-Bound Professional Football Coach

With degrees in Sociology and Economics, Ramya is a blogger who writes on society and culture, hoping to bring about positive impact on as many people as possible. She runs a blog called www.meotherwise.com.

He cleared the All India Football Federation’s course to become India’s first wheelchair bound football coach. Meet Oliver D’Souza from Mumbai! 

In Dec 2015, the Cooperage stadium in Mumbai made sporting history of sorts. Oliver D’Souza became India’s first wheelchair-bound football coach, after clearing the AIFF-D certificate course. The All India Football Federation’s D-licence coaching certificate is mandatory to become a qualified football coach. And Oliver got it! At the age of 32, he was the first physically-challenged person to not only attend the D-licence course but also to pass it.

“For football, you need a brain, and that is what I want to make use of.”

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Photo credit: sportskeeda.com

Oliver had always been an aspiring football player. But fate had other plans for him.  A decade ago, while retrieving a football from a makeshift roof, Oliver fell twelve feet as the roof collapsed. This accident broke his spine, leaving him a T-7 paraplegic, that is, with no sensory functions from the chest down.

But this didn’t dampen Oliver’s spirits or his love for the game. When he attended a seminar that helped people with spinal injuries, Oliver knew that he just had to get going with his life. He began working in a public relations company, took up table tennis and swimming, even winning the gold medal in the state freestyle 50m swimming championships. But, when it became difficult for him to commute to work because of the increasing traffic on Mumbai roads, Oliver was forced to stop using his car and he quit his job. It was at this time that he decided to take up the AIFF coaching course.

Even before enrolling for the course, Oliver faced discouragement from a few senior coaches. They wanted to know how he was going to demonstrate the game to the players. That’s when Oliver chanced upon a story about the renowned football team Manchester United hiring a wheelchair-bound football coach named Sohail Rehman to train them. It was exactly what he needed to get going. However, AIFF had never ever in the past received an application from a physically challenged individual. But seeing Oliver’s enthusiasm, the CEO of Western India Football Association, Henry Menezes, sought special approval to let Oliver join the organization. The rest, as they say, is history now. Oliver not only took up the course but also passed it to earn the coveted title of a football coach.

Football is more about strategy than the game itself, according to Oliver. “If you see the best and most successful coaches in history like Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, they never played at the top level but were still master strategists. They never physically demonstrated to the players, they used their assistants to convey that part,” he says.

Despite rejections and discouragement from senior coaches due to his disability, Oliver has risen against all odds to pursue his passion. He now plans to take up grassroots coaching, with the aim of eventually coaching a professional team.

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About the author: With degrees in Sociology and Economics, Ramya is a blogger who writes on society and culture, hoping to bring about positive impact on as many people as possible. She runs a blog called www.meotherwise.com

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