Added to the usual cacophony of cheers and referee whistles was the clinking of crutches as players darted across the field. AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR
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At the referee's whistle, the young forward leans on his crutches and punts the football with his only leg, kicking off a match between war amputees in Syria's battered northwest. What follows is a different take on the beautiful game: Men of all ages, some using crutches, deftly pass the ball back and forth as they sail across the field.For the past month, a physiotherapy center in Syria's northwest Idlib province has been training 19 war-wounded men and boys to establish a football team.Founded just over a year ago, the rehabilitation center that runs the football sessions is housed in Idlib's Specialist Hospital.At a recent friendly match, opposing players wearing mint-green and red jerseys grappled over the ball on a pitch set up by charity association Shafak."Ole, ole, ole!" team members cheered, their arms around each other's shoulders and hopping on one leg.Youssef hails from Homs, a central Syrian city known as "the capital of the revolution" that erupted across the country in 2011 .He joined the uprising as a rebel fighter and even played football on breaks from the front, but he lost his right leg in clashes against government troops in 2015 .
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