If we aim high and give our all, we can change our destiny. Blind Football
- 08 February 2021
Written by Charlie Tohme
People like Anthony Samuel continually prove that being visually impaired does not stand against their passion for playing football.
October 28, 2012, was unlike any other day for Anthony Samuel; it was the day that changed his life completely. He was only 17 years old when he started struggling with his vision at nighttime. That night, the young man was riding his bike when his sight was disturbed by a car's headlight. As he lost his focus, a truck bumps into him from behind, throwing him across the road. Over the months, Samuel's eyesight started deteriorating. In six months, he had realized that he had lost his vision for good. "I lost a part of my self the day I lost my sight," says the 25-year-old.
The young man liked to explore as he rode his bike and roamed around Kolkata, India, with his friends every day, but that changed after the accident. People started seeing him and treating him differently; "I thought I lost my identity," he says.
However, Samuel's mentality changed when he witnessed for the first time a blind football match. He was taken aback by how fiercely the players were playing. "There is no fear; nothing is holding them back," he says before realizing that "if they can do it, I can do it. I am for this."
Later on, in 2016, He joined the "Blue Dolphins" team in The Indian Blind Football Federation founded the same year by Sunil J. Mathew, sporting director, and head coach. Samuel hasn't stopped playing football ever since. In fact, he was nicknamed "the unbreakable bull" because of his skills in the game.
Samuel found light in his darkest days because of IBFF; he is now a football player and a motivational speaker. He no longer saw himself as disabled, "everyone struggles with difficulties in doing some things; I'm just like anybody else," he says.
The goal of IBFF is to provide a bedrock for the sport and spread it across the country to support people like Samuel through their blind football training and vocational skills academy which started in 2017. Their works revolve around the idea that Blind people should feel independent and capable of self-development. "I want the boys to have fun and to change their lives," says Mathew.
Mathew never forgets when he saw a blind person kicking a ball for the first time. He was familiar with the blind community because his NGO was responsible for creating job opportunities for the blind since 2003. With this vision stuck in his mind, he created a team and started researching and getting involved with blind football.
"We started playing football on weekends as a fun exercise," the head coach says, "I was learning about Blind Football as much as I was teaching at that time. It was definitely a give and take."
The Blue Dolphins have played tournaments against many teams worldwide and is ranked 29th; their last tournament was in December 2019 against the Japan development team in India. "Even though Covid-19 stopped us from playing, IBFF continued its works to support the players," says the sporting director.
Blind football is currently the only football sport in the Paralympics. It has strict rules and specific classifications just like any other sport, which begs the question,
What are the main rules?
- The game is on a futsal size ground of 40 m x 20 m.
- There are five players in each team rather than 11.
- Outfield players are blind, and the goalkeeper is sighted.
- Outfield players must wear eye-patches and blindfolds to protect their eyes from impact and make it a fair game.
- There are no off-side rules.
- The football contains ball bearings to rattle when it moves, allowing the player to locate it in the game.
- All players must shout out the word "Voy" (Latin for "I am here") to alert other players about their position.
- A guide and a coach on the sidelines, positioned outside the playing field, provide instructions to the players.
- The game is two halves of 20 mins with a 10 mins break.
Blind football is a sold-out game in the Paralympics, and Mathew hopes that India will participate one day. "The boys are superstars; hopefully, we can get that medal in the future," he says.
However, Mathew insists that even though winning a medal is a huge reward, "the bigger prize is knowing that we are making a change."
IBFF will continue spreading awareness and positive messages about how the Para community can change the lives of many.
Samuel learned that there is always a silver lining, for that, he is a firm believer in always having a positive mindset. "If we aim high and give our all, we can change our destiny," he says.
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