An Eye on the Ball: Blind football in India

From the field:

The excitement was palpable! The players were filled with enthusiasm and energy as they yelled instructions out to each other, shouted “voy” as they ran to announce their presence, adhered to the many rules of blind football and scored goals! Since oral instructions are such an important part of the game, we needed to maintain silence but between every point, we grabbed every opportunity we could to cheer! The basics of the game were familiar but so much was different – there were no floodlights to illuminate the field and all players were blindfolded to make sure it was a level playing field for all players independent of visual impairment. The adrenaline and exhilaration from the field lingers on for many days. What a show of skill, determination and teamwork!

The end of October saw Chennai play host to a special event. The 5th Blind Football Nationals was held in the city. In the men’s tournament, a total of 120 players represented 11 state teams, with four teams making it to the playoff games. The host team did not have it easy at all. Their first match was as dramatic as it was exhilarating, with the Tamil Nadu boys facing off against two-time champions Kerala. They pushed the team to a draw, won their next match and made it to the quarterfinals in front of the home crowd! Unfortunately, the home team’s run ended in the quarterfinals after a loss to Meghalaya who went on to win the championship. But it was not just the boys who had all the fun on the field!

The state’s girls blind football team secured third place in the nationals. While that is impressive in itself, what is more awe-inspiring is that the team’s journey with blind football is only about a year old! Captain Andal and her teammates showed up at YMCA (Nandanam, Chennai) for the state’s first blind football introductory session in October 2020, and soon enough, they were hooked! “I would encourage other VI women to try football,” Andal says. “This is a male world, but I think more women will come in the future.” The girls practiced every weekend and even travelled to Kochi for a week-long training program conducted by Indian Blind Football Federation. In the lead up to the national tournament, both teams from Tamil Nadu participated in a residential camp to help develop their tactical skills, fitness, motivation and confidence. They needed to be ready to take on the strongest teams from across the country! Thanks to the rigorous training and the adrenaline of being cheered on by spectators, the teams were ready to roll and Chennai was witness to the action.

With the national tournament behind them, the Tamil Nadu Blind Football Association (TNBFA) is gearing up for a busy 2022. The state is looking to host the South Zone blind football tournament and a partially sighted football tournament at the beginning of the year. There are also plans to host invitational tournaments for blind as well as partially sighted boys and girls teams later in the year. If all goes well, there will also be inter-collegiate tournaments for blind as well as partially sighted teams. Next year is only an extension of TNBFA’s work in the past. Since its formation in 2019, the body has played a crucial role in the growth and development of blind football in India. The Executive Committee, with 95% comprising of people with visual impairment, is framing strategic plans for the future and Tamil Nadu is only slated to scale more heights. There is much to look forward to but there is no one more excited than the players themselves. “There are other sports for blind people but none as cool as this one,” Andal says.

Sebastian
Sebastian

Sebastian is the General Secretary and Technical Director of Tamil Nadu Blind Football Association.

Yashasvini Rajeshwar
Yashasvini Rajeshwar

Yashasvini Rajeshwar is a social entrepreneur as well as Deputy Editor of Success & ABILITY. She has been associated with Ability Foundation since 2006.

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