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Deaf Soccer Player Tackles Pro Challenge

With Real (pronounced RAY-al), Eby has confronted challenges again. No one on the team or coaching staff knows sign language, and Eby does not read lips as well as he signs. Interpreters have accompanied him to practice on occasion, but for the most part, he arrives by himself and absorbs what is being instructed through gestures and body language.

"Sometimes communicating is a problem, but I am sure other players, even the ones who are not deaf, experience the same problems because you can be too far away from your teammate or there can be a lot of noise and confusion," he said. "In that way, I am not alone."

Gonzalo writes instructions on a notepad when necessary, "but usually I give just him the thumb's up or thumb's down."

Unable to hear the whistle, Eby must watch carefully for stoppages in play. He communicates with teammates by gesturing and making sounds. He is not a starter but is regarded as perhaps the top defender on the bench. Gonzalo said he plans to use him at left back, a position that allows Eby to see almost everyone on the field. "Eye contact is very important for me," he said.

"He is always aware of what is going on. It really has not been a big problem," goalkeeper Emilio Zelaya said through a Spanish interpreter.

Several friends from the hearing-impaired community are expected to attend tomorrow's match, said Eby, who after completing his physical education degree in December became a full-time dormitory supervisor on the Northeast campus and will continue to be an assistant coach this fall.

Real Maryland teammate Ronald Cerritos marvels at Eby's accomplishments.

"Sometimes it is difficult with him because talking is a big part of the game, but in the end, soccer is the same language," said Cerritos, a Salvadoran national team forward who played 10 seasons in MLS, including two with D.C. United. "He has the qualities, and he has the passion. Some players have everything, but they don't always bring passion to every practice and every game. I am watching this kid do a lot of things. For him, it is not an excuse to play soccer. He's an inspiration."

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