After 10 months of hard work (meetings, reaching up to coaches, gathering players from cairo and other governorates, trainings, contacting specialists for coaching seminars and getting equipment), it finally paid off. Last Saturday the first blind football match took place.
1-Was the blind football initiativeplanned or it all came spontaneously?
Well, our plan is to run some projects to develop sports in Egypt, especially football. So we decided to establish a sports management company to proceed with our ideas. I used to be a volunteer fitness trainer for visually impaired children and one of my partners used to assist blind football coaches in the UK during his sports management studies. That’s why we thought why not use our experience and take the initiative of introducing blind football to Egypt. In January 2014 we got the idea and we started immediately.
2-How Blind football works?
Each team consists of five players, including the goalkeeper who has to be sighted. The ball makes a noise so the players are able to locate it. A guide is assigned to each team to help in directing the players. A match lasts for 60 minutes, divided in two: 25-minute halves and a 10-minute halftime.
3-Beyond the blind side, how did your players inspire you?
– I know this will sound very cheesy and redundant but they showed us that there’snothing truly you can’t do if you’repassionate about. And no matter how much people think it’s difficult,
Football is truly for everyone.
4-was it hard to pick your players and train them?
– Actually, each coach we contacted has access to some blind athletes. Training them was not as hard as we thought it would be. They are fast-learners and are always up for any challenge no matter how hard. Also some of them are familiar with football; they used to put a ball in a plastic bag with some little rocks in order to be able to locate it. Others used to play football before losing their sight.
5-What’s your slogan?
Empower The Blind!
6-How do you choose your trainers and how do you plan to train them professionally?
Our trainers must have physical education degree and have to have experience in dealing with or training blind athletes. Until now we have a database of 12 coaches who are all very keen on working with us.
Tony Larkin, one of the blind football pioneers and former English blind football national team manager, is going to come to Egypt at the end of this month to work with the coaches and give ToT (Training of Trainers) sessions. We are also in contact with a German specialist who is also going to come to Egypt and give coaching and refereeing seminars.
7-Tell me about last Saturdays blind football tournament at the Auc?
The event was very successful on a personal level for us because the team really enjoyed the atmosphere and people were very supportive and never showed them that eyes are focused on them that way but that they are athletes being watched for skill and doing something not many can do.
8-Did the event gain media attention?
Yes, it did. Many channels, magazines and sports websites made sure to attend the event to shoot the match and interview the founders and the players.
9-Are there any entities supporting you?
Until now we have one sponsor which is going to pay for the coaching seminar by Tony. But we are still contacting other organizations.
10-What was the most annoying or sarcastic comment you got from a hater?
To be honest, we don’t have any haters. However, when we tell people about blind football, they laugh because the first thing that comes to their minds is the blind football scene from Adel Imam’s movie ‘Amir El Zalam’. It was introduced in a funny way, which is not how it’s played in real world. It provided false information and set the blind sport community back a couple of years and was very demeaning. Changing people’s perception of this incredible sport was one of our main aims in last saturday’s event.
11-Is it possible to be a part of the Egypt football association?
Yes! We just met with a representative from the Egyptian Football Association and it’s looking good.
12-What do you guys long for?
Our plan is to establish a blind football league with a minimum of 6 teams, form the first Egyptian blind football national team and compete internationally. There are around 20 registered national teams at the IBSA (International Blind Sports Association) and we are looking forward to registering our team. In a couple of days the Blind Football World Cup will take place in Japan. We were not able to participate but hopefully we will take part in next year’s Africa Cup and in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The goal behind all of this is to enable blind and partially sighted people to contribute more fully to our society and to provide them with a normal life just like ours.
13–If you have to choose one thing in Egyptians what would it be?
Egyptians should realize how much resources they have that they are not using and should work with an aim to make use of these and that will definitely make us one of the leading countries in any field. Other than that nothing, Egyptians are naturally compassionate and helpful, even though some might have a bit of a temper during ramadan.