Soccer and its adaptation for the visually impaired

Text by Reddit user Blind Insider

The world is about to experience, once again, one of the most anticipated sporting events, the Soccer World Cup in Qatar 2022.

Millions of people around the world are fans of soccer and it is not uncommon that during the time of the World Cup many families come together to watch the matches and even fly from their countries of origin to the venue to support their teams.

Although this event is held every four years, many people bring this passion to their daily life, playing soccer for fun with friends or professionally.

And it is at this junction where we ask ourselves: what about all those people who cannot see but still enjoy this sport?

Is there a way they can experience it and not just listen to it?

Well, as of right now the answer is yes.

Soccer adapted for blind and visually impaired people is a reality in our era thanks to technological progress and the willingness of many to train and share with those who cannot see.

Because the inclusion of people with visual disabilities must also be taken to the field of sports, I will tell you a little about this adapted sport.

The first information we have about adapted soccer comes simultaneously from Brazil and Spain between 1920 and 1930, where blind and visually impaired students played in the courtyards of their schools.

At the beginning, they used plastic canisters or cans to which they added stones or anything that made noise to be able to orient themselves because playing with a ball was not an option.

Although as time elapsed, in Brazil, they lined the ball with plastic to make it hearable and in Argentina they glued soft drink caps to the ball.

Finally it is known that in 1970 a teacher named Joao Ferreira created a ball with the help of a local craftsman who put bells on the inside and that would become the official ball for adapted matches since 1990.

Colombia and Argentina were also among the first countries to join adapted soccer in 1970 and 1980 respectively.

Brazil as a trailblazer for this sport, included it during a competition in 1978 and in 1984 the city of Sao Paulo held the first national championship under the name of Copa Brasil de Futebol de 5.

In years to come different tournaments were held in Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia; which also led to the unification of the rules for this adapted sport.

This is how in 1995 the International Federation of Blind Sports (IBSA) began working on regulations for the four continents, taking into account the demand that began to arise.

The above was of enormous significance, because from that date and with the recognition of this new adapted sport, it was included in Federation's calendar and the first matches between continents were played.

The impact of these tournaments was such that several new countries joined in. By August 2000 the entry of five-on-five-adapted soccer as a Paralympic game was requested. Said request was accepted and its first match was played at the 2004 Athens games.

Thus, since 2007 this sport has been included in the world championship of Asia, Africa, the World Championship of Sports for the Blind and the PanAmerican Games.

Now, what does this modality of five-on-five soccer also known as Blindfutsal entails?

As its name implies, each team has five members, four of them who are blind and a goalkeeper who can see, who guides his team.

In addition to the indications of the head coach, they have a guide in the opposing goal to orient themselves.

In the same way, all blind players wear a protective mask and the court has side fences so that the ball does not go out of bounds.

Each match consists of two 15-minute halves and a 10-minute break in between.

Although FIFA rules are followed, the game has been further adapted for the blind.

In Mexico there is also a soccer league for people with visual disabilities.

In the matches there is no offside and as we already mentioned, players wear a mask, a sounding ball and a guide that helps their players from the opposing goal.

The most famous team belongs to Mexico's National University (UNAM).

On the field there are two referees without visual impairment who call fouls, but they are not so strict since blind players need constant physical contact, so pushing does not count as a foul.

It is also important to emphasize that the public must be silent during the matches because the players need to hear the ball at all times as well as the instructions from the guide, the goalkeeper, the head coach and their other teammates.

Although currently the team is made up only by men, there are also women who are very interested in this adapted sport so making a female league is a possibility.

In writing this blog I had the chance to interview Fernando Díaz Jiménez, 31, originally from Valle de Chalco in the State of Mexico, who has hereditary retinitis pigmentosa. He began his training at age 28 with the UNAM team and currently plays for the La Salle University Wolves.

Fernando remembers that since he was five years old he liked soccer but it is not the only sport he has practiced, as he has also done it in basketball and chess.

Fernando's family supported him from the beginning, he also told me that in his debut match he scored two goals and that has been one of the most beautiful experiences he has lived.

Although he has not yet had the opportunity to compete outside the country, one of his biggest dreams is to represent Mexico in the Paralympic Games and win a gold medal.

For Diaz Jimenez, a normal day of training consists of PT, team training and a sense of direction training.

Although at first people are surprised when Fernando tells them what he does, when they see him play they get excited and encourage him to keep practicing.

Finally, many blind people share Fernando's opinion: "let the world know that when there's the will, nothing is impossible". The important thing is not to give up and know that everything can be done. Proof of this is this sport that you would think is only for people who can see.

Another mention-worthy athlete in this category of adapted soccer is Dario Aldo Lencina.

Aldo was born in 1980 in Argentina. He plays soccer for the Murcielagos team and is a multimedal recepient and champion in several events and world championships. He is an accomplished goalkeeper and also a head coach. Currently he coaches youth teams for the blind in adapted soccer.

A fitting conclusion to everything we have mentioned so far may be that the only barriers that limit us are those found in our mind.

Quoting Jim Abbott:

Disability doesn't define you; what defines you is how you cope with the challenges disability brings about.


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