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Muhd Syafiie: I read their lips

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Syafiie makes a save for Outram in their 6–5 upset of ACS(I) in the final of the B Division Water Polo Championship. (Photo by Les Tan/Red Sports)

By Les Tan

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, Outram Secondary made history when they beat Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 6–5 to win their first ever National B Division Water Polo Championship.

Tending goal for Outram was Muhammad Syafiie bin Mohamad Roslan, 15. What nobody knew, apart from his schoolmates, teammates and family, was this – he is partially deaf.

Outram is one of six Ministry of Education secondary schools that provides specialised support for hearing impaired students.

“It is no barrier to excelling in sport. We give equal opportunities to all students. So here you are, competitive sports, and he is one of the stars!” said a very happy vice-principal, Sukhdev Singh, vice-principal of Outram Secondary, after their famous victory.

“In our school, we give everyone a chance when they show potential,” added Kuah Kar Huat, the Outram coach and old boy.

Syafiie is the third of four children. He has an elder brother, Muhammad Ridzuan, 24, and an elder sister, Nur Amirah, 22. Muhammad
Sufyan, 14, is his younger brother. His father, Mohamad Roslan Bin Mohamad Osman, 52, is a driver while his mother, Rohanah Binte Marhaban, 51, is a housewife.

Red Sports caught up with this courageous Secondary Three student, who turns 16 in December.

Red Sports: How long have you played water polo?

Syafiie: I have played water polo for almost three years.

Red Sports: Who introduced you to the sport?

Syafiie: I went to the CCA fair in school, and that’s how I got to know of the sport.

Red Sports: What is it about water polo that you like?

Syafiie: It is a tough and fun game at the same time. It teaches me the importance of team work.

Red Sports: Was it hard to join in the sport even though you are partially deaf?

Syafiie: At first, it was difficult. But after some time, me and the team can click together.

Red Sports: Can you explain your deafness. Is it partial or full deafness?

Syafiie: Partial deafness. I got it when I was a baby, around 8 months old. I had a very high fever, on and off for three weeks, and due to that, the doctor told my parents that my hearing could be affected.

Red Sports: How do you communicate?

Syafiie: I lip read or I use hearing aids that enable for me to hear and communicate normally. I can lip read when the team communicate with me slowly. I taught myself to read lips.

Red Sports: So if you take out your hearing aid in the classroom, can you still hear your teacher talk?

Syafiie: Nope.

Red Sports: But with the hearing aid, you can hear the teacher and follow the lesson without problems?

Syafiie: Yes. I don’t use sign language.

Red Sports: Do you find that people treat you differently because you are partially deaf?

Syafiie: Sort of, sometimes. But no problem.

Red Sports: What is the most challenging thing about playing water polo?

Syafiie: Communication. The sport is already challenging. Not being able to communicate with my teammates makes it more challenging.

Red Sports: So how do you know what your teammates or coaches are saying to you if you’re not wearing your hearing aids?

Syafiie: I read their lips.

Red Sports: You are part of a team that made history by winning the school’s first B Division title. Tell me how you feel.

Syafiie: I feel very happy. This win is a reward for the hard work of the team. This is just the beginning. I hope we will continue to train harder and retain our title.

Red Sports: How often did you and your teammates train?

Syafiie: We trained from Monday to Saturday. During the holidays, it was twice each day, and during school days, it was once each day.

Red Sports: What primary school did you come from and what sport did you play in primary school?

Syafiie: I came from Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired. And I was in the swimming club.
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