KOCHI: For a long time, the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) has been on a mission to create a sustainable environment for the growth of blind football in India. Fighting odds, it organised national-level tournaments and exposure trips for the blind national team, only to be pulled back by the lack of support from the All India Football Federation (AIFF). But, not anymore. With an intensive three-day coaching session by national goalkeeping coach Rogerio Ramos, AIFF began its engagement with the blind football fraternity in India.
Besides, in first-of-its-kind gesture, the Indian Men's Football Team donated Rs 50,000 to the team to buy blind footballs and improve training facilities. "We have been reaching out to them for while. AIFF has been offering technical support since last December. As a beginning, the national team's coaching staff took the interest to engage us in goalkeeping training. Now, the given amount will be used for buying equipment and meeting our academy expenses," says Sunil J Mathew, sporting director, IBFF.
IBFF has numerous plans in the long run. "As the format is quite different from the normal football, it needs special time and effort to nurture talent. The supporting staff, including head coach Stephen Constantine, will have sessions with our boys once the Asian Cup is over. We hope their pep-talks will inspire the boys to go further," says Sunil.
He adds: "We are going to organise a Northeast grassroots tournament in Shillong soon. Besides, we are teaming up with professional clubs like Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters FC and Delhi Dynamos FC for utilising their training facilities.".
Earlier, the national team made the gesture by gathering the monetary sanctions for breach of discipline during their training sessions. “The balls which the blind footballers use cost $50 each. We collectively agreed among everybody within the National Team, including the players, and the staff, that any money collected from fines or any misdemeanours will be donated for a good cause," says Stephen Constantine, head coach, Indian Football Team.
Other than technical support, IBFF aiming for further support from AIFF for their future endeavours.
"Our boys will soon don the official national team jerseys manufactured by official kit sponsor Six5Six. We are hoping to use the training facilities used by the national team as well. Apart from participating national-level matches, the team will take on Thailand and Laos in a tri-nation tournament in March," says Sunil.