Blind Football: Organization Breaking New Ground for the Blind in Uganda


A lot of sounds echoed around the Kampala field, a lot of people gathered, soccer match: the hum of the PA system as players warm up, the muffled murmurs of hundreds of intertwined conversations, and match has started – the ball crackles loudly on the grass to help players find it.

All players are visually impaired and rely on all these sounds unraveling from each other to move around the pitch, so the crowd is kept quiet during the match under the direction of the stewards.

This match is the brainchild of Blind Football Uganda. Blind Football Uganda is an organization founded last year by disability inclusion advocate Jagwe Muzafar to promote and develop the sport in the country.

blindness football An adapted form of five-a-side football played with an audible ball on a pitch surrounded by a “kickboard” (a physical barrier that marks the touchline) and no offside rule.

“It started with a simple idea [after] I have seen visually impaired people playing soccer abroad. And I thought, why not start it in Uganda,” Muzaffar says. CNN Sports.

Initially, Muzaffar used a ball designed for goalball (a pitching game specially created for visually impaired athletes), but in June 2021 the International Blind Football Foundation donated a starter kit. made it possible to realize the idea of ​​the visually impaired. soccer team.

Football is one of the most popular sports in Uganda, but it is traditionally not played by the blind who are fixated on track and field and goalball.

“[Those sports] We can’t hold too many people,” Muzaffar said. “Not everyone can easily get into athletics … even goalball requires a lot.

“When you watch football, you can train in a day and then you can start playing. Not everyone plays, some come for fun. [thing]But the main thing was mainly to expand the playing field for people with visual impairments.”

After just one year of existence, Blind Football Uganda now consists of four men’s teams and two women’s teams, with a mix of abilities and classifications.

Visually impaired athletes fall into one of three categories. B1 is blind, B2 is sighted and can see shadows, and B3 is less than 10% of her functional vision.

“Even if they are not completely blind, we include them in our activities, blindfold them, and make them feel like they are playing,” says Muzaffar.

Under the rules laid down by the sport’s governing body, the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), only B1 players are allowed to participate in blind football, while goalkeepers with full or partial sight can only play in restricted areas. must be housed in

Players wear opaque eye masks to ensure fairness.

IBSA relaxed the requirements for women’s football in January 2020, allowing all three classifications to play together. Blind football Uganda will follow this template in case he later B2 and B3 players participate in the men’s international competition.

For now, the organization arranges national competitions in the form of leagues rather than international competitions. World Cane Day October 14th and 15th.

Disabled sports operate under a web of international structures. As well as IBSA, there are non-profit organizations such as Para Football, which oversee all forms of Paralympic football and are governed by their own organizations dedicated to each disability.

“Globally, international organizations must accept that Africa is also part of the world, because we can watch the cerebral palsy football World Cup this year. But they called it the World Cup,” Muzaffar said.

CNN reached out to the tournament organizers, the International CP Football Federation (IFCPF), for comment.

This disconnect between international and grassroots organizations is evident in the relationship between Blind Football Uganda and IBSA.

After building the organization without outside technical knowledge, using only YouTube and the internet for instruction, Muzaffar hopes to share his newfound expertise with international organizations promoting the sport.

“Everything I’ve been doing, no one at the international organisation… has even asked us. How are we doing, how can they get involved and support us?” Will you give it to me?” he adds.

CNN has also reached out to IBSA for comment.

Despite a lack of substantial support and financial constraints currently limiting their ambitions, Muzaffar and his team have managed to crowdfund online and provide some of the needed equipment. We find ways to circumvent these challenges by improvising .

“I sat down with the team and said, ‘Can we develop something similar to what you see on TV?’ … So we sit down and develop something,” he explained. increase.

“for example,”[kick] Boards, we make them out of wood. Then cover them with clothing so that they do no harm every time someone knocks them. ”

Blind Soccer Uganda hosts matches as well as training.

However, some financial challenges have proven more difficult to tackle.

As is the case around the world, rising energy prices are impacting daily life in Uganda. observerUgandan newspaper.

“If you look at the current situation in the country, the price of everything is going up…Last year, it was easy to move people. …We are currently transporting one to training or training, it is a bit difficult to make it a game,” Muzaffar said.

He explains that because blind people cannot work after school, they often live with their grandparents in remote areas, adding to transportation costs.

In this environment, the Blind Football Uganda program can change society’s attitudes towards people with disabilities and improve the mental health of participating athletes.

“Most blind people have moved from home to school and home to school since they became blind,” says Muzaffar.

“Even their parents restrict them so they don’t do other activities. They think that because they are visually impaired, some things could be more dangerous for them. When you talk to their parents, when they… see them play, these things create a social life they’ve never interacted with before.”

Blind football can be played indoors or outdoors.

The impact of sports on mental health, especially on people with disabilities, is well documented. A 2014 survey conducted by british blindsportparticipants cited competition, health benefits, and social interaction as the main motivations for playing blind football.

“It helps you get out of situations like depression and loneliness. [or] They are limited when they participate in football or when they play football,” adds Muzaffar.

Muzafaru hopes to use social media to expand the organization beyond Kampala and increase opportunities for blind people to play football.

“People were curious to see what we were doing and asked, ‘How can blind people play?'” he says. “So these sites are also helping us drive crowds to our events.”


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