I don’t like the “label” that says “inspiration”. I honestly prefer the one referring to me just as “fitness coach”. Sometimes it’s really sad to be an inspiration but nobody believes in you…
In Lebanon, they asked to be an ambassador for a gym. Every time I ask for an opportunity to work, the answer is always “no”. I can’t see myself as an example when the people that call me like that can’t or don’t want to consider me as coach.
There are only few that believe there is a fitness coach with a prosthetic leg. They wonder how I can be a coach but I, supposedly I can’t run. They haven’t watch me running.
They think I cannot be like them. The same people put “labels” to Olympic and Paralympic athletes and cannot accept that they are all athletes.
All the negativity I faced, though, never made me doubt myself. Maybe I did it for a second. They told me to change major and field, due to lack of chances.
I didn’t and I stayed true to myself. I believe in myself and it made me fight more and work harder. That’s how I got the opportunity to work as an intern fitness coach in basketball powerhouse, Fenerbahce.
They told me to quit. I didn’t.
This happened in my second year in the university. One of my teachers for my master’s degree kept asking why I speak about sports. She thought I can’t have all this knowledge, because of my amputated leg and my condition…
“A person with a prosthetic leg cannot work in sports. You cannot have any opinion on basketball”. These words are still in my head. It felt like a big slap on my face. I decided to stay and I told her that I would be the first coach with a prosthetic leg. I wanted to be the first fitness coach in the Euroleague and I decided to fight for my dream.
I am where I want to be and where I can be. My passion for basketball couldn’t lead me out of school. My next desire was to prove them wrong.
And I did it.
I got a call for an internship in Fenerbahce in December 2018. When I revealed my dream about that team, they told me that I am dreamer and out of reality.
I sent my CV and I got a response from Mrs. Defne Patir, Fenerbahce’s Director of Basketball Operations.
I didn’t tell anybody that I got accepted until the day I went to Istanbul, because I thought something would happen and lose my opportunity.
Turning back time…
I was two years old. It was election day in Lebanon. Every time we have elections, the winners use to celebrate with guns.
I was in my family’s house, in the balcony, playing. A stray bullet went straight to my leg. Gangrene was next… The doctors decided to do the amputation.
I don’t remember many things. I was just a little kid. I saw some pictures. Even at the hospital my memory is fading.
I spent six months at the hospital and other three going back in for tests.
My life changed in a hard way. In school, though, I was surrounded by positive people. I was in an encouraging environment.
Everyone was helping me. They made me feel like all the other kids. At the age of eight I started playing basketball with my friends.
But then the problems came around… I wasn’t as fast as them. I couldn’t run in a right way. Two years later I broke my leg for the first time. My amputated leg.
It was a sad reminder that I don’t have a leg. After the surgery I decided to stop playing basketball…
I stopped playing but the passion of basketball continued growing with me.
When I was younger I wanted to organize an association for people with disabilities, in order to help them to stay strong like me. That was my first motivation to keep going.
The support from my family to continue, to get education and keep being around sports, was the second. They showed me to be proud of myself.
The missing leg became my inspiration. I didn’t look normal. But I felt that way. That was important. Because every day I wake up and I wear my prosthetic leg, I remember that I should fight and keep dreaming. I wanted to be that person that other people with disabilities see and say “I can be like you”. I am proud when someone says, that because of me, he or she did not quit life. It’s great to know that you can affect other’s lives.
When I got shot, many thought I would die. But God saved my life and for me this was also a message to share my story and the power to live. To be strong enough and help the others.
I got a second opportunity to live, another chance to be here and I wouldn’t waste it. That kept me positive and wanted to motivate other people.
Everything happens for a reason and there was no way I would not stay positive, to try again and again.
I shaped my own dream, my own path.
My family is always by my side. They believed in me. I paid my brother back by finding tickets for Fenerbahce’s games, right? Haha!
He knew I can work in the Euroleague. All my family shows support, that my thoughts are not just dreams, but a reality.
It was my balance after the problems I had in college. In elementary school there was no bullying or strange looks in my leg. But in the university they were mean, maybe because they saw me as a competitor, but not as an equal person.
One day, in a class, they brought an athlete, a bodybuilder, to talk to students. She started laughing at me… She told me that I was overweight to go to gym for training, even though there were to girls heavier than me. She thought that talk about my leg would means that I am a weak person.
She paid attention only to my leg. I told her that I am like her, that I have the mentality to stay strong. I told her that “you should look at your picture before the steroids and you know that you should not attack me for my condition!”.
She stopped talking and got mad at me. She later told she was joking, but that wasn’t true. The teachers said that they don’t accept what she said but they didn’t truly support me and it was they turned their backs on me.
I found all the support I was looking for as an intern in Fenerbahce.
It is one of the best adventures of my life, especially for meeting coach Zeljko Obradovic, my childhood idol. Standing in front of him for the first time was emotional for me.
The best thing is that players like Kostas Sloukas, Gigi Datome, Nic Melli, treated me as a coach and not as a person with a prosthetic leg. That was a proper force to make me believe more in me. I remember my last day, when coach Obradovic talked to the team about my dream that came true. He told me to believe in myself and fight day in and day out for my dream.
He said that one day I will work full-time in the Euroleague! I will never forget his words.
When I got there, I told Gigi Datome that when I meet Obradovic I maybe forget my own name! But I didn’t, I shook his hand and said: “I am Nesrin”.
It was nice and I still think I can’t describe it with the right words.
As a Turkish that was born abroad, Fenerbahce was always something more than a team to root for. I am a fan and working there was a dream come true.
Fenerbahce was also the moment I proved everybody wrong, as it was my graduation from the university as the first fitness coach with a prosthetic leg.
There was a reason that I didn’t give up. Everybody has the right to get education and find their opportunities.
People with disabilities or moving with wheelchair have the same rights. We should get our chances to prove that we are capable of working, according to out talents and hard efforts.
Going to Fenerbache was exactly what I had in my mind, as far as the environment. Gigi Datome was the nicest guy to me, but the support was great from all the players. Defne Patir was really supportive from day one too. Every time I talk to her, she is very helpful.
She advised me to send CVs to Turkish and Greek teams, for a possible work opportunity. Defne told me how to write my resume, how to contact, how to describe myself and show my work.
To make them see me as a coach and explain how I can help a team. She and many other members of the team still get in touch me from time to time, after finishing my internship.
After the last year’s explosion in Beirut, many Fenerbahce players called me to check if I am safe. They are something like a family to me.
In the summer of 2018 I was part of the fitness staff for the Lebanese national basketball team, under coach Slobodan Subotic.
I worked with the team during the qualification rounds for the 2019 World Cup, that would be held in China.
Coach Subotic was very nice to me. Besides our professional relationship, he was the one who defended me at various times in some practices. He defended me when the fitness coach started laughing at me, hearing about my goal.
He laughed at me when I told him that my dream is to meet and work with Zeljko Obradovic…
Slobodan Subotic told me he believes that one day I will be in Euroleague. He was sure that my place is in this league, because he sees how much work I put on and how I ignore the negativity and the bullying around me. He said that I will have to stay focused on my target and always trust my talents and work.
I appreciated his words and I know if he wasn’t coach “Pixi” it would have been hard for me to be a part of the Lebanese national basketball team.
Slobodan saw my skills and my passion. He never looked at me as a person with disabilities and I have all my respect for him.
I am still looking for my new opportunity. From all the emails I sent, I got an answer from Greek teams. Olympiacos’ members informed me that their staff is already full.
Panathinaikos told me that they cannot hire now because of budget cuts. Aris Thessaloniki replied to me the same things, because of financial difficulties. I am searching for a new chance to work outside of Lebanon, where they see me as an inspiration, but can’t or just don’t want to hire me.
For example, in Lebanon, they asked to present my CV and I let them know about my prosthetic leg. No response for two weeks…
After I sent it again, without any reference to my condition, they called asking for an interview. I went but they paid attention only to my leg.
The next day they claimed that they had already hired someone, in less than 24 hours. This happened many times in my life. Another problem is obvious the fact that I come from Turkey. Maybe it’s a political thing now…
Even after my story came out to the international press, they are not afraid to say that in Europe they see me as a coach, but in Lebanon the approach is totally different.
There is a gym in Lebanon that after my internship in Fenerbahce and my work with coach Obradovic, the owners called and asked directly to be their new manager.
But when they saw my leg they changed their mind…
Another gym’s member claimed that I didn’t do the internship in Fenerbahce or I paid the team to take pictures of me with the club’s jersey. That was really hard. They read about my background, they learn about my experience and say they are proud of me. But when they see my leg, the situation suddenly changes.
It’s true that they don’t think I am an inspiration, but a person with one leg… That’s totally wrong.
I don’t want it to be an “obligation” to hire me. See my work, my talent and judge me, leaving my prosthetic leg out of the story.
My motivated character is something that can help someone to believe in himself, to never give up and always work harder.
I can run, I can do whatever a person without disabilities. Look at my experience. Look at my spirit, how I fight every day and give me an opportunity. I can accept any rejection after I work for a team or a gym. But not because of how I look.
Editor: George Adamopoulos
CHECK IT OUT: