Raiders host 14-year-old Iraqi amputee for Falcons game
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ahmed Ali al-Etabbi maneuvered through the tunnel and onto the Coliseum field with crutches to watch pregame warmups, his jeans rolled up over his missing right leg.
The Iraqi teen beamed and soaked in the atmosphere, dressed head to toe in Raiders silver and black for his first NFL game: Oakland versus the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He had his leg blown off by a suicide bomber in his hometown of Baghdad nearly two years ago and has been in the Bay Area for the past month receiving treatment and getting fitted for a prosthesis that's being donated to him. His father died in the blast.
The 14-year-old al-Etabbi -- with his curly black hair and shining eyes -- aspires to one day play soccer again, thanks to the hard work and generosity of Oakland-based Laurence Orthopedic and prosthetist Tony LaFrance. Al-Etabbi shook his head in delight when asked about it, though he doesn't speak English.
"He's very happy to be here," said Adli Rasheed, who is sponsoring and hosting the teen while he's visiting by himself for the medical work. "He's been a Raiders fan since he arrived here."
Al-Etabbi is expected to have his prosthetic leg as soon as this week, but he likely will stay in Oakland until mid-December to undergo physical therapy. Iraqi doctors will be able to maintain the prosthesis as the teen grows because it is constructed with screws and bolts that can be adjusted.
The boys he's been living with introduced him to football because they're playing this fall.
Raiders CEO Amy Trask heard the story of al-Etabbi's plight -- and that he had instantly become a Raiders fan -- and quickly went to work to make sure he could attend a game during his stay in Northern California.
"You hear people whine about things, but look at his spirit and what he's gone through," she said.
Al-Etabbi came prepared for this big day, too. He had binoculars hanging around his neck, a white Raiders windbreaker jacket for the cool fall day over a black Raiders T-shirt and also sported a Raiders hat.
"There's nothing in Iraq he can see like this," Rasheed said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press