Montpellier: Deaf Sports Club’s Mathis Epifanio confides: ‘Bringing everyone together, far beyond everyone’s differences’

Interview with Mathis Epifanio, President of the Sourds Club of Montpellier.

Mathis Epifanio, what are CSSM’s ambitions?

Through this project, our goal is to unite the deaf community around sports. Today, we have several disciplines within the club. It ranges from volleyball to hiking, petanque and eSports. What we want is to energize the deaf community through a passion for sports.

How many licensees do you have in the club?

We have about a hundred of them every year. Unfortunately, Covid has hurt us a lot as our workforce has dropped significantly. But we’re trying to restart the positive dynamic, doing our best to regain momentum and attract new licensees. Don’t forget the Club de l’Âge d’Or, it has suffered a lot and we are trying to remobilize it. Some of its members have been there for decades and they are part of our heritage.

Is this adventure also a way to make life better for your disability?

The most important thing is to enjoy our passion for sports together. As deaf people, if we are part of a hearing team, we are left out. Very involuntary, just because of the language barrier. In fact, sign language makes us forget about obstacles and make everyone equal in our communication. In the club, we also have more than a dozen people who are listening and practicing sign language. It was a great thing for all of us to go through this adventure together.

What is the future of the club?

At the beginning of the year, we considered our development possibilities. For example, our organized discovery conferences. There has been this desire to seek members and attract new audiences. We also rely a lot on the volleyball part, which has been very good in recent years, so it has brought us a lot of popularity. There were encouraging signs at the beginning of the year but the work is not done and we have to continue the momentum, why not dream of a sports centre in the future that will allow us to bring all the departments together in one place. We must also thank all the communities and partners who supported us in this project.

Can Paris 2024 help you?

Of course. That’s why we do our best to get our athletes to the Olympics. Such an event is a great showcase and it will certainly help us develop disability sports and clubs.

As president since 2021, how did you experience this adventure?

I arrived in 2012 and I was still a baby in the club (laugh). When I took my first steps at CSSM, I learned about the heritage and value of this project. What I love most is bringing everyone together, old, young, deaf, hearing, and that goes way beyond each individual’s differences. Even in difficult times, I will never let the club down. But I also want to involve all the leaders and volunteers. I still can’t see myself as president, I’m a full member of the club. Alone, I don’t know anything.

Club created over 80 years ago

Club Sportif des Sourds de Montpellier was founded in 1938 by Émile Julien, Eugène Perrier and Antoine Roviralta. The club was originally affiliated with the French Sports Federation for the Deaf, and in 2008 the club officially joined the ranks of the French Hand Sports Federation. Today, the association’s goal is to organize, promote and develop competitive sports and/or leisure activities for the deaf and hard of hearing.

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