A Colombian man, both blind and deaf, develops a language that allows him to understand what happens on the pitch.

Football is a constant process of overcoming and growth. Not only for the players but for the fans as well, especially those that aren’t able to follow the team closest to their hearts. Much like José Richard Gallego, to whom fate seems to have made doing this especially complicated. Because of Usher’s Syndrome, José, an unconditional Millonarios fan, lost his hearing at nine years of age and then his sight at fifteen.

What the illness couldn’t take from José was his desire for football. José wasn’t about to give up on following his team despite not being able to experience it like he used to so he came up with a solution. And so he ventures into uncharted territories, opening a new path. However, he wasn’t alone, by his side was his long time friend, César Daza.

The invention is simple, but requires a lot of practice for it to function well. In fact, what José and César did was develop a new language where the happenings of a match are expressed through manual gestures. Each play has its own special code which is communicated by placing both of their hands on a wooden board and reproducing what happens on the pitch with a series of movements across the board.

José Richard Gallego y César Daza laugh during a reportage published by ‘El Espectador’.

At the Marcet Foundation we were lucky enough to see these two in action. LaLiga invited them to Spain for a few days in recognition of the work they had done in Colombia, where they have become a reference point in terms of coexistence. So much so that today, José is the only person that can walk into the Santa Fe stadium sporting a Millonarios shirt.

Just by the central pitch at Ciudad Deportiva Marcet, José and César sat down with us and gave a demonstration of how, whilst being blind and deaf, one can enjoy a game of football. Something they want to share with the rest of world through their project ‘Fútbol en la piel’ (Football in the skin). They’re nothing short of ambition, working their way into the history books with this inspiring journey of personal growth.

 

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