Matt Ayyash is proof that hard work pays off as he has become Nova Scotia's first and only deaf soccer referee
HALIFAX -- Matt Ayyash loves soccer.
He also happens to be deaf, but that hasn't kept him on sidelines as he's become the first and only deaf referee in Nova Scotia.
Ayyash, who was born in Jerusalem, is proof that hard work pays off.
After moving to Canada when he was 13 years old, he got involved in several different sports growing up.
"It wasn't until five years ago that I got the idea to become a soccer referee," Ayyash said through interpreter Mae Smithman. "I remember thinking that I wanted to be a ref and I was like, 'but can I?' When I decided to become a referee there was a lot of people that would comment, and they're like 'you're gonna become a ref, but your deaf. How is that gonna work?' And I was like 'I don't know but I'm gonna try.'"
His brother, Mike Ayyash, said Matt is "a really determined person."
"Since we were kids, he never saw his lack of hearing as a disability, he thinks more about what he can do and not what he can't do," Mike Ayyash said.
Carman King is a fellow referee with Soccer Nova Scotia.
"When Matt first approached me about being a referee he said 'I'd like to take the course. How far do you think I can go. Do you think I can be a referee?' and the answer was, 'of course you can be a referee, it's just a matter of do you want to be and how eager are you to be involved in this?"
King says it's difficult to know what limitations, if any, there might be for Ayyash.
"He has met all the expectations on him he has not found a barrier yet to being able to advance," King said.
Ayyash says there was a somebody from another province who contacted him about a deaf child who had seen him.
"(The child) had seen me and started to look up to me, and was really excited to see deaf ref," Matt Ayyash said. "So in that sense, I guess I am a role model. I just want to use the access that I'm given in order to show the world that deaf people can do things, it's not about whether you're hearing or you're deaf, it's about your abilities."
His brother, Mike is proud of him.
"It just shows that there's no barrier that you can't overcome if you put your mind to it," Mike Ayyash said. "It's an inspiration, really, not only to us but to anybody who's passionate about something and they want to do it."
Matt Ayyash says it's important for people with disabilities to know that their disability shouldn't be an obstacle.
"Whatever your passion is, if you have it, go ahead and do it," Matt Ayyash said. "It doesn't matter if you have a disability or you're deaf. Don't make it an excuse."