Visually impaired footballers were an inspiring lot at the fourth edition of the National Blind Football Tournament held in Bengaluru.Roshni Balaji
Football is a sport that requires speed, strength, swiftness, and skill. It is known to be a tough game even for people who are athletic and able bodied. Now, imagine this sport being played by the visually impaired? Sounds impossible, isn’t it?
When Gabriel Nongrun stepped onto the football turf at the Bullring Fever Pitch grounds in Yeshwantpur, Bengaluru, all he could see was darkness. He was neither able to look at the fans on the pavilion nor the vast football field. But he could feel the energy in the air and get a sense of Garo, Meghalaya, the opponent team’s moves. At the end of the 45th minute, Gabriel landed up scoring five goals for his team, Bethany Society, Shillong, to emerge as the champion of the National Blind Football Tournament.
“My father and siblings used to play football almost every day when I was a child. One day, I asked them to teach me to play the game. At first they told me that I wouldn’t be able to learn since I am not sighted. On requesting them for the second time, they taught me to dribble and kick. Since then, I never looked back. I wanted to prove to the world that even the blind can play football,” Gabriel Nongrun told YourStory.
Sixteen teams consisting of 160 players from across the country like Meghalaya, Lucknow, Kerala, and New Delhi, took part in the fourth edition of the National Blind Football Tournament organised by the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) from April 12 to 15, 2019. All the games of this series were conducted in the presence of referees and officials approved by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSF).
The championship consisted of five-a-side games played on a futsal-size ground. The footballs had bells inside them to help the players get a sense of the direction in which the ball was being kicked. All players were protected with eye masks. Only the goalkeeper had sight.
The highlight of the tournament was the demonstration of a game of football by visually impaired female players. Referees, goalkeepers, coaches, and guides were also women, making it a unique experience.
Presently, India occupies the 30th spot in the world when it comes to the game of blind football. The objective of this tournament was to help identify new talent to represent India at the Paralympics in 2020.
“The idea of holding this event was to bring together the best of visually impaired football players and show the world that they can shine in the field of sports just like any other sighted person. I must say the amount of talent and potential they possess is unimaginable and they definitely deserve a lot of recognition,” notes Sunil J Matthew, Sporting Director, Indian Blind Football Federation.