It’s the most popular sport in the world. It’s growing in teen participation around the United States. And whole families are getting involved, let alone communities rallying around their youth programs. I’m talking about soccer and we who are blind can play it provided the adaptations are made.
According to the United States Association of Blind Athletes, blind soccer has been played in paraOlympic competition since 2004 and teams from sixty countries compete against each other.
As the USABA’s site describes: “Blind soccer teams are made up of four outfield players and one goalkeeper. Outfield players are visually impaired which means they are completely blind, have very low visual acuity, and/or no light perception, whilst the goalkeeper must be sighted or partially sighted.
To ensure fair competition, all outfield players must wear eyeshades. Teams can also have off-field guides to assist them. The ball makes a noise due to a sound system located inside that helps players orient themselves. Before attempting to tackle, players must shout the word ‘voy’ so that the person they are attempting to tackle is aware. This is designed to prevent injuries wherever possible. Players committing five fouls during one game are disqualified from the game. Spectators must remain silent while watching the game until a goal is scored.
Blind soccer is played on a rectangular field that measures 40m long and 20m wide. The whole length of the pitch is covered by kickboards to prevent the ball from going out of play. The goals are 3.66m wide and 2.14m high.
The duration of the match is 40 minutes, divided into two 20-minute halves plus 10 minutes for half-time. Each team can request a one-minute timeout during each half. During the last two minutes of both halves, and in case of extra time, the timekeeper must stop the clock for a free-kick, kick-in, goal kick, and corner kick.”
You can read more about the history of this awesome sport here and watch some competition videos here. The USABA has a series of seventeen YouTube instructional videos here.
As someone who attended junior high and high school in Noblesville, Indiana, I knew a lot of classmates and friends who played a lot of regular soccer. We were and the school still is one of the best programs in the State. So, from a personal standpoint, it’s exciting to see this adapted form of soccer in action. I hope you can appreciate it, too. If you are a parent, encourage your growing blind or visually impaired athlete to consider playing blind soccer.