By Tahlia Zaloumis
Widely known as The Beautiful Game, soccer is a sport embraced by communities all over the world. It is not commonly known that people who are blind or partially sighted are also free to enjoy the sport via a modified version of the game.
Blind football is a variation of futsal designed for players who are blind or visually impaired. There are two formats of the game, blind football (B1) and vision impaired/partially sighted football (B2/B3).
Blind Football (B1) is an internationally recognised sport played at the Paralympics. Blind and visually impaired players play on an outdoor pitch for the simple fact it allows for natural sound reverberation. The pitch is set up with side kickboards and an audible ball that contains a bell. There are two teams of five; four outfield players and a goalkeeper. Outfield players wear eye-shades to equal their sight and the goalkeeper can be full or partially sighted.
Australian Blind Football Coordinator David Connelly got involved with the sport back in 2013, after seeing a trial of the game by Blind Sports Victoria. Since then, the coordinator has coached numerous athletes with different levels of visual impairment. He even went to the World Championships in 2014 for Blind Football.
“I’ve been a soccer player all my life and after seeing these trials and watching the sport, I feel more in-love with it.”
Connelly got involved to give those who are visually impaired an opportunity to play a sport they love. Since getting involved he learned quickly he had to alter the way he coached to suit the players’ disability.
“In sighted football, you use cones and show them how to do something. Here, you have to improvise. Using your voice to help guide them, maybe getting players to clap to help them move in a certain direction.”
After learning how to overcome these coaching barriers, Connelly started helping players get familiar with the field and the audible ball.
“It’s all about getting them used to the adaptation until it becomes normal and they can progress further.”
Despite these modifications to the sport from the tradition game, Connelly says there is not much difference to sighted soccer.
“Sighted soccer and non-sighted soccer— there isn’t much difference. You just need more patience and to use your voice more when playing.”
Blind football player, Johnny Bowen shares that the success of the game all comes down to sound and communication.
“With mates that aren’t visually impaired, you can feel alienated. Here everyone’s included and helps out where they can.”
Bowen says from the beginning, he’s been taught to talk constantly to those on the field, letting them know if the ball is to the left or right of them and where other open players are so they can dish the ball to them.
Additionally, when playing as a defender, or going in for a tackle, players are taught to talk to their opponent to let them know that they’re there.
“When playing defence, we were taught to say ‘voy voy voy.’ I’m not sure where the word came from, but it’s to make sure the person knows someone is coming and saves people from getting injured.”
Letting all players know that you’re coming towards them to get the ball, makes sure everyone is on the same level.
For an in-depth look at blind football, click here to read our feature article on the sport in our latest issue of Sport Health.