The Indian Blind Sports Association of India (IBSA) is taking the Indian Blind Football team to the International level. This is the first time in Indian history that a football team with visually challenged players is participating in an international tournament.
A team of 10 visuallychallenged players along with four support staff is representing India at the Thailand Open Football 5-A-Side (B1) Tournament 2013 organised by Sports Association for the Blind of Thailand that began on Monday in Bangkok.
This remarkable step by the IBSA would not have been possible without the support of the Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged (SRVC), a Cochin-based NGO, which is actively engaged in the welfare of the visually challenged people, and AirAsia.
“There is no government support. In fact, we never expected them to act. This is purely an initiative taken by the Blind Association with the help of the SRVC, who largely extended their support and pioneered us in associating with AirAsia, who are now the official sponsors of the team,” said A David, coach and manager of the team.
The team along with the sponsors was in Chennai, before leaving to Bangkok on Sunday. Actor Shriya Saran, who has been active in supporting visually challenged persons, was also present to encourage these players to do their best.
The new Chennai-based young CEO of AirAsia India, Mittu Chandilya, who was present on the occasion, also expressed his interest in associating with the team in future.
“We are extremely happy to associate ourselves with this team and I am sure we are looking forward to create many such opportunities,” he said.
According to David, this international tour is of huge importance in the players’ career as it will give them the exposure and confidence to play anywhere. Nearly six international teams representing Hong Kong, India, Iran, Malaysia, Russia & Thailand are participating in the event. Russia and Iran are the teams that are said to have had lot of International exposure.
As per the international standards for a B1 category tournament, each team will comprise five players, where four players on the outfield are completely blind and a goal keeper who will be partially blind. The support staff from each team will be standing at each side of the goal post, guiding the players about their next move. Apart from that, one more support staff can also be placed in the midfield to help the players.
The design of the ball plays a crucial role in enabling the players to know the location of the ball. The ball resembles a football except that it is slightly smaller and produces sound when hit.
One would expect an intensive exhaustive training session for a game like this, but the Indian team underwent a systematic training for just 15 days that was enough to boost the confidence of the players.
“These players have the skill in place; they have the ability to grasp the ball through their hearing and are athletic enough to be physically fit. They just have to know where to hit the ball, which is where the coach skills come into play. We are there for them on the field. One major challenge we faced was the communication between the players, since each is from different regions in the country and it took them sometime to come down to a common platform to understand each other,” said David. The players were also equally confident like their coach and agreed that this tournament will be an experience to all of them. “Though we trained for just two weeks, our training was a technically sound one,” said the Delhi-based player, Ankur Dhama, who is also an international-level athlete.
The coach said that though winning the tournament would be like expecting too much in very little time, he had unshakable faith in the player’s ability to excel.