Henshaws Paralympics 2016 Series: Football

Ever wondered how blind football works? Or who can compete in a triathlon? Over the next few weeks, we'll introduce you to just some of the sports that will be played in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Welcome to our Paralympics Series!

The Paralympics is a multi-sport event involving athletes from across the world with a range of different disabilities, held straight after the Olympics. The games have come along massively since they started in 1960, where it began as a rehabilitation programme for British war veterans with spinal injuries.

This year the Rio 2016 Games are during 7th-18th September, with around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries! There will be 22 different sports – including canoe and triathlon for the first time. The games will be covered in the UK by Channel 4 – you can check out their trailer in the video.

We’re covering a few different sports over the next few weeks – giving you the know, who and how on the sport. Last time we looked at archery, and this week we’ll be covering football:

How does blind football work and who can compete?

There are two variants of football played at the Paralympics game: 5-a-side, and 7-a-side. 7-a-side is usually played by athletes with cerebral palsy, and 5-a-side football is played by visually impaired and blind footballers. In 5-a-side football, there are three different classifications for the footballers according to their level of sight (B1-B3), but all players except for the two goalkeepers wear a blindfold to maintain fairness.

Each game lasts around 50 minutes (split into two 25 minute halves) and in the likelihood of a draw, a penalty shootout decides the winning team. Rules are very similar to Olympics football except the field measurements are smaller and since the pitch is surrounded by a wall, there is no off-side rule or throw-ins.

The ball has a bell inside so that players can hear it move around the pitch, and each team can be supported by their sighted goalkeeper (who cannot leave the penalty area) and a guide behind the goal. Both the guides and goalkeepers can yell instructions and directions for the players. The guide can also use a metal baton against the goal posts to guide the players. Whenever a player tackles, they have to shout “voy” – this helps prevent accidents during the game.

Who’s in the team?

Great Britain isn’t competing this year after failing to qualify last year in Hereford. The favourites to win are Brazil – who have won in 2004, 2008 and 2012. The Brazil 5-a-side team is Jeferson Goncalves, Marcos Felipe, Damiao Robson de Sousa Ramos, Ricardo Alves, Tiago da Silva, Mauricio Dumbo, Raimundo Nonato, and Luan.

One to watch – Ricardo Alves (Ricardinho) has achieved gold medals in both the 2008 Paralympics and 2004 Paralympics. In 2014, he was the tournament’s top scorer in 2010 when Brazil won the world title and was voted Most Valuable Player in 2014.

Did you know?

  • The audience needs to be completely silent during the game so that the players can hear the ball move. The referee even has the power to remove crowd members if they’re making too much noise. Check out our video to see (and hear) a game in action.
  • Blind football has been around for almost 100 years, with the first tournament played in 1974 in Brazil, but the first time it was introduced to the Paralympics was Athens in 2004.
  • The youngest player is just 15! Sergio Alamar is one of the 5-a-side players competing for Spain.

We hope you enjoy this introduction to Blind Football – stay tuned for more Paralympic coverage in our series over the next few weeks!

Check out our other blogs in the Paralympic series: Archery

Interested in getting involved with football?

Every week we hold our football group, our junior football group, as well as our Newcastle Football FA League Team, which meets to train weekly. Find out more by visiting our groups page, or contact our Newcastle team on 0191 275 9417 or at newcastle@henshaws.org.uk.

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Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.