KOCHI:Players of the Indian Blind Football Team fought with the same intensity as that of professional football teams in the exhibition match held at the Regional Sports Centre here on Tuesday.
Each team comprising four players and one goalkeeper held a brief discussion before commencement of the match, to chalk out the game strategy and sharpen their ears. They were coached by Sunil J Mathew.
To the spectators, who included media representatives, representatives of the Tata Trust, Benny Behnan MLA and actor-activist Ranjini Haridas, the teams displayed their skills in possessing the ball, dribbling, attacking and defending.
Though the match had many moments that deserved applause, the spectators were restricted to express their commendations with silent gestures like smile, as sounds - even minute - other than the instructions and the whistle of the referee could distract them.
Unlike professional football matches, blind football matches are played with certain relaxation in rules.
Each side will field four players and one goalkeeper, and the ball comes with something special in it - a bell - to help the players locate it easily. As per rules, the goalkeepers must stay in the penalty area throughout the game. But, goalkeepers can give instructions to outfield players. In addition, each team can assign a guide who will stand at the opponent’s goalpost to direct the players while scoring. The exhibition match, which lasted for 15 minutes including penalty shootout, ended in a draw. Post-match, Sunil told Express that the team would be heading for Tokyo for the Asian Blind Football Championship, with great aspirations.
“We know very well that it would not be a cakewalk. The opponents, Korea, Malaysia, Iran, Japan and China, are all strong. The tournament will provide good exposure to the players as well as the Indian Blind Football as a whole.
“Above all, half of the selected team members have gathered sufficient experience by representing the country in various international tournaments. The present team of ten has been selected from 18 players who attended a camp in New Delhi,” said Sunil, adding that the players were handpicked by Malaysian coach Loo W K.
The team has a Kochi connection also, as two of its players are alumni of Maharaja’s College. According to the coach, Blind Football has always evoked a lukewarm response from the authorities. “My aim is to open a Blind Football Federation, based in Kochi, to revive this category of the game at the national level,” he added.