Exactly 20 years ago, Mahmoud Hamuda, like any other young boy, went out to play soccer in the neighborhood of Bu'aina Nujidat in the Galilee. The day ended painfully, when a blow he received during the game caused pieces of glass from the glasses he wore to enter his eyes, and despite a series of surgeries, he lost sight in one eye. At the age of 15, he also lost sight in his other eye, due to intraocular pressure that also affected it.
Hamouda did not give up and went on with life, went out to study, completed a master's degree in educational counseling, and is currently completing psychotherapy studies, in addition to being a special education teacher who teaches the core subjects at a school in Haifa, where he currently lives.
Hamuda (31) did not want to give up the sport he loves so much, and today he also manages the running team in the "Eye Contact Winner" project, which is a national sports team designed for the visually and hearing impaired, operating in four running groups in Haifa, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva and Modiin. The exciting project, which Toto began sponsoring - a running group for the blind called "Eye Contact" in cooperation with ALEH - was created to participate in races in Israel and abroad and show that people with disabilities can reap very impressive achievements in sports, and only recently the team participated in the Prague Marathon.
Did you think that's all? Mahmoud has participated in 13 full marathons in Israel and around the world, he trains regularly and has been part of Eye Contact since its inception in 2018, and now he is marking his next goal – to reach the Paralympic Games in Paris 2024.
"All my life I've been in sports, 24 hours around the clock in soccer and ten years ago I just started running," Hamouda says of his beginnings, "In my master's degree I moved to Jerusalem and heard about this project, and that's where it started. I came to practice and really liked the idea. I was there for three years, until I returned to the north and worked to establish the group in Haifa."
Cute with the association's running group, photo: PR
"Calling on people to support"
Do you do it just for the money or do you have a specific goal?
"My dream is to get to the Paralympic Games, and every time I improve my results. In my last marathon, I improved considerably, finishing in 3 hours and 34 minutes. I don't care which race to take, because I'm fast even in shorter races and do 41 kilometers in 10 minutes. I think I can go in that direction, because when I started training seriously I had already improved my record by 20 minutes, and potential-wise I believe I can be there. I just have to choose the profession that suits me best."
How does the success of the project contribute to you?
"It's a very successful project. It gives blind and visually impaired people a framework. The teams themselves are made up of the entire Israeli mosaic, all colors, all religions, Jews, Arabs, and this makes the club unique. We are also like a family, there is a strong bond and it also helps progress, both in training and in races."
Cute in action, photo: PR
How does it help day-to-day runners?
"The blind people who start running have a lot of concerns. I start taking it down for them, telling them how much training the escorts have and how much they can be trusted, and it takes the pressure off them and they get into it more and more, start walking and then move to 5 to 10 kilometers and continue on to the marathon. It develops their personal confidence when they see that they are succeeding."
"We at the club try to run all the races in Israel, like the Tel Aviv Marathon, Jerusalem and Tiberias, but almost every week there are events and we try at least once a year to go abroad, like now in Prague and before that in Larnaca in Cyprus. Sometimes it comes after donations are given to us, and I want to take advantage of this platform and call on anyone who wants to support. We need everything to keep moving forward, and also to reach more people and recruit chaperones."
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According to Toto CEO Meir Bardugo: "Toto is proud to be the sponsor of the 'Eye Contact Winner Leaf' running team, an exceptional initiative that enables the visually impaired to participate in races throughout Israel and the world and encourages a sporty lifestyle. However, far beyond the benefits of physical activity, this initiative is extraordinarily inspiring, encourages striving for excellence, coping with difficulties and a whole and wide basket of values that Toto aspires to promote."
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