Know about the Blind Football Team of India

In a country obsessed with cricket, Football has seen a growing interest in recent times. While Cricket has already been available for the visually impaired, Blind Football is slowly taken a similar growing interest like its counterparts.

Football for the blind and partially sighted started out as a playground game for school children in special schools for the visually impaired. It has now become one of the most popular sports for people with a visual impairment worldwide.

The game was taken up in several countries, each playing according to their local rules (different balls and pitches were used, rules varied from country to country, etc.). Many countries, such as Spain and Brazil, set up national championships, and soon countries began to organise the first friendly international matches.

Blind football – or futsal, as it is also known – joined IBSA in 1996 and the 1st IBSA European Championships were held in Barcelona, Spain, whereas the first American Championships took place in Asunción in Paraguay, in 1997.

Since then, the official IBSA regional and world championships have been held regularly and international friendly tournaments such as the IBSA Cup have become a regular feature on the blind futsal calendar. Brazil is the current IBSA Blind Football World Champions, having won in Tokyo in 2014. Brazil has won four IBSA world titles and Argentina two.

India’s foray in to the game

Just like the many other sports, India came late on board. In 2013, Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged (SRVC) helped put together the first Blind Football Team with the Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA) New Delhi. After setting a training camp in New Delhi, the final team flew out to Bangkok from Chennai for their first ever International tournament.

This was a 7 nation International B1 tournament organised at Bangkok between 19th and 22nd Aug 2013. India happened to be the only team which fielded partially sighted goalkeepers while all the other teams had come with sighted keepers (an option available for teams). The Indian team put up a remarkable performance as they finished fourth in the tournament which consisted of teams like Iran, Vietnam, Russia, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Over the years SRVC and Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) have worked together in organising national awareness and demo camp across the country. They also worked hard to organise training camps for the players across the country and result has been seen in India’s improved performance internationally. India were ranked 28th in the world on January 2015 which went up to 25th a year later and we’re now ranked 23rd in this year’s World Ranking.

IBFF now plans to start a full-time Blind Football Academy to train and develop the best players to create a National Team of World Class standard.

On 20th December 2017, Mr Sunil J Mathew, Sporting Director of IBFF, has been included in the IBSA Blind Football Committee for four years.

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