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Five-a-Side Football

Some call the game soccer. Others refer to it as football. Regardless of what you call it, there is no debating that the game’s popularity in the U.S. has exploded within the last two decades. While other countries have had a love affair with the game for nearly a century, it took a while for it to catch on in our country. Similarly, the growing international popularity of five-a-side football for the blind has also been delayed in the U.S.

In fact, the first international competition in five-a-side football for the blind took place at the Spanish Championships in 1986. Only in 2002 did the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes begin promoting football to its members. USABA is currently recruiting and training players to field a national five-a-side team to compete internationally. As you can imagine, this indoor game of “soccer” is wildly popular in Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Currently more than 30 countries sponsor teams. In September 2004, five-a-side football for the blind will become the newest event of the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

The mainstream game has undergone some adaptations to make it more enjoyable and safe for blind and visually impaired players. Each team consists of only five players; a goalkeeper and four fielders. The halves are only 25 minutes long with very few stoppages of time. The ball is made of leather and is slightly smaller than the regular ball. It contains ball bearings to emit a constant sound for easier tracking. Unlike the massive, often unruly crowds at mainstream games, spectators of blind football must remain quiet so players can hear the ball, opponents, and coaching.

The playing area for five-a-side for the blind is also quite different. It is played on cement or a similarly hard surface. The field measures 40 meters by 20 meters with either fencing or walls acting as the sidelines. These walls are used to immediately bounce the ball back into play. The walls also serve as orientation markers. The smaller, walled court makes the game more dynamic, fluid, and safe. The smaller dimensions also aid communication between players, coaches, and guides.

Like mainstream football, the blind version is physically demanding. Good players require strong ball control skills, special awareness, field orientation, and body coordination. Each player must wear a blindfold, except for the goalkeeper who can be either visually impaired or sighted. Players go after the ball with one foot and kick it toward the other team’s goal. When fielding the ball, players must shout, “Mine” to notify their teammates to stand clear. The game is full of contact, but no more dangerous than the sighted game.

In five-a-side football, the players rely on verbal cues from two guides or coaches. The manager directs the player to the ball and helps him stay oriented. The other guide is positioned behind the goal that his team is attacking. He shouts to his players to assist the aim of their kick toward that goal. Verbal guidance also helps players when defending free kicks and penalty shots. Some typical penalties and infractions include: obstructing the goalkeeper, tripping, two-footed attacks, purposeful noise distractions, and tampering with eyeshades. You can learn more about adapting and playing five-a-side football by visiting on the web.

SportsVision is fortunate to have Greg Gontaryk, one of USABA’s five-a-side development volunteers leading the instruction at this year’s Camp SportsVision. Based on the level of interest, SportsVision may offer a demonstration and mini-session of this fun sport for blind adults during our camp weekend. If you are a blind adult who is interested in attending such a session, please call the SportsVision office to express that interest.



PO Box 13202 | Pittsburgh, PA 15243
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