"We are planning a wheelchair team in Greece and other countries too. The IPA team can win, just wait and see"
Ibrahim Al-Hussein is a swimmer with basketball dreams. When the independent Para athlete is not training in the water he is with an orange ball in his hands.
“I want to start a wheelchair basketball team with the other refugee athletes and compete at the Paralympic Games,” said the 29-year-old.
Al-Hussein lives in Greece as refugee since 2014. He was born in Syria and left the civil war-torn country in 2013 after losing part of his right leg due to a bomb blast.
He took on Para swimming in his new country in a project with refugees with impairments supported by the Hellenic Paralympic Committee and the Agitos Foundation.
Al-Hussein was the flag-bearer of the Independent Paralympic Athlete (IPA) team at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. He says his life completely changed since Rio and that more and more refugees contact him.
“I am always talking to other refugees around the world. I hope they can compete in more sports.
“We are planning a wheelchair team in Greece and other countries too. Hopefully we can start playing next year.”
Right now, he is still a swimmer who has just taken part in three events at the Dublin 2018 World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships.
Almost every week, Al-Hussein talks to another swimmer who he hopes to partner with at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Mohammed Abbas is a refugee athlete who lives in the United States and who took a silver medal in last year’s World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City.
“We are good friends. We always talk to each other. He is a great athlete who has already won a medal. I’m also always in contact with Shahrad Nasajpour, who also lives in the USA,” said the swimmer, referring to the IPA discus thrower who competed at Rio 2016
Al-Hussein hopes him and Abbas can go to the podium at the Kuching 2019 World Championships in Malaysia. Then, the plan is to repeat in Japan the following week.
“I’m very proud to represent the refugee athletes. I just want to get better and better. I’m hoping for a medal at the Worlds. Maybe in Tokyo 2020 too.”
As for the basketball team, don’t even dare to ask if he has talent for it.
“Of course. I’m good. The IPA team can win, just wait and see,” he said with a smile.
In October the IPA team together with the Refugee Olympic Team will receive the Stephen J. Solarz Award during the In Pursuit of Peace 2018 Award Dinner in New York.
The ceremony is hosted annually by the International Crisis Group, an independent organisation working to prevent wars and shape policies to build a more peaceful world.