Blind Football kicks off in Australia
Blind Football is certainly unique - the ball rattles and the crowd has to be silent so players hear the ball and each other.
For sighted people it’s a completely new world, watching blind and vision impaired athletes, wearing eye patches, and then being blindfolded to ensure game integrity.
As a spectator, it’s remarkable watching five players on each side navigate the field. The field of play is divided into thirds, with each side attached to a guide in each third. The strikers are supported by an attacking guide who directs strikers from behind the goal. Sideline coaches provide audible instructions to each team in the middle third and each team has a sighted goalkeeper who directs players in the defensive third.
Everything else, the incredible footwork, the communication, the teamwork, the thrill of a goal, is all the same.
In recent years, Blind Football has been growing in global popularity and it is now played in over 100 countries. Unsurprisingly, Brazil is the current Paralympic champion but Australia is now on track to get its own national team!
National Blind Football Coordinator, David Connolly said over the past few years blind and vision impaired futsal and soccer has been played in a variety of formats, and now under Blind Sports Australia, the peak body for blind and vision impaired sport in Australia, a national program has been founded.
“This weekend, football enthusiasts (and budding Paralympians) will gather for the inaugural Blind Football Australia Training Camp and Interstate Challenge in Fairfield, NSW,” David said.
“The camp’s aim is to start selecting a training squad of players with the goal of representing Australia through the Oceania region at next year’s IBSA Blind Football (B1) World Championships in Madrid, Spain.”
David said there will also be a series of games of Partially Sighted (vision impaired) football to establish a Partially Sighted national team with the aim to compete in the 2019 IBSA World Games.
“While Blind Football is very much a grassroots movement at the moment, the ultimate goal is to have a national team to represent Australia,” he said.
“I’ve been a football fanatic since I was a kid. I would just rock up and get involved.
“Four years ago I didn’t know Blind Football existed. Then I went to the world championships in 2014 and was completely blown away. I thought why aren’t we playing this game in Australia, so I thought let’s see if we can get some blind and vision impaired players together and give it a go.”
David said people who are blind or vision impaired face many barriers trying to get into sports so he is on a mission to spread the word and build awareness.
“We want people who are blind or vision impaired to know they can get involved in football, have fun, make friends and build their skills,” he said. “And we’re only a phone call away.”
For more information on how to get involved in Blind Football, contact David Connolly, National Blind Football Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0417 983 338.