Blind Football – What Has Happened So Far?

The Situation of Blind Football in India and what has happened so far

Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA) is the largest national level sports body devoted to the promotion of sports among the visually challenged in the country. In 2004, the association started promoting Football as a sport for the visually challenged, organizing demonstrations of 5-a-side football and distributing special footballs to the participating institutions in the National Coaching. The Association also started National Football tournaments over the years for the players.

IBFF and the works

However, despite all this, Blind Football still missed an identity of their own, until the year 2013 when Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged (SRVC) joined together with Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) to bring together the best players from all over the country to represent the Indian National Blind Football Team. The Federation arranged training facilities and tours for the national teams to train practice and improve their skills.

In 2016, after the successful All India Tournament, the Federation undertook an awareness road-show and blind football camp to Kolkata and across North East in search of new talents and giving more visually challenged players a chance to showcase themselves. Cities like Tura, Meghalaya, Guwahati, Shillong & Imphal were the places for the show. The tour involved playing demonstration games with the 2016 All Indian Tournament winner – Kerala Blind Football Team playing with the local sides, distribution of Blind Footballs and training the trainers.

International Performance

In the year 2013, India had its first representation in an International Blind Football Tournament in Malaysia facing the likes of Iran, Russia, and Hong Kong. In the seven country tournament, the Indian team finished well at the fourth spot bowing out in the semi-finals. In the subsequent year, the team toured Malaysia and Hong Kong, while they lost the friendly against Malaysia, the performances definitely boosted the team for the rest of the Hong Kong tour. Against World No 4 China – the team did what they could to hold off a masterly performance by the World Championships Semi-finalists but suffered a heavy defeat. Next up was a game against Hong Kong, the local team which Team India won 1-0 with a field goal scored by M S Ranjith beating the home team India eventually finished fourth in the tournament.

To prepare the team for the 2015 Rio Paralympics and Asian Championship Tokyo, The federation along with SRVC organized preparatory camps roping in International Blind Sports Instructor and Referee Mr Loo W.K from Malaysia. Players from Delhi, Dehradun, Kolkata and Kerala were brought together for the preparatory camp. Sunil Mathew, Head Coach, M. C. Roy, Manager, Ravi Cosul (Assistant Coach) and David Absalom (Chief-de-Mission) accompanied the players as the officials. Though the tournament turned out win-less for the team losing against the likes of tournament heavyweights Iran, Korea and Japan, the experience and exposure playing some of the best in the world gave the players confidence and determination to succeed in the future.

Domestic tournament

In early 2016, All India Invitational Blind Football Tournament was held with Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged (SRVC) of Kerala emerging victorious in the final defeating the young team from NIVH Dehradun in a sudden death penalty shootout. The event, inaugurated by Bollywood actress Shriya Saran, who was also the Brand Ambassador of the sport, brought in around 80 participants and instructors from around the country, including teams from Delhi, Uttarakhand, Dehradun, Kolkata, Mumbai, Northeast, Bangalore and Kerala.

The tournament also brought to the fore some exciting talents from all across the country including some young players. Sukhvinder of NIVH Dehradun was adjudged the Best Player of the Tournament for his consistent overall performance through the event while Abhimanyu Naskar won the Golden Boot for his five field goals for CAB Kolkata in the earlier games.

In this year’s tournament, it was vice versa story with the NIVH Dehradun beating SRVC Kerala in the finals to lift the trophy. Sukvinder was once again the star winning the player of tournament award for the second time in a row while Hilter from Shillong and Pankaj Rana shared the honours of the Golden Boot award with 4 goals each.

Blind Football Academy

The First Blind Football Academy of India was inaugurated by the IBSA World Blind Football Chairman & German National team coach Mr Ulrich Pfister on 15th Sept. 2017. The first Batch had 10 members with facilities like Vocational skills training sessions in computers, reflexology, Telesales opportunities offered to the candidates along with Yoga, fitness training & good nutrition. The Academy aimed to develop a stronger national team for the future.

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