Indian blind women’s football team to make World Championship debut

Indian blind women’s football team qualifies for the World Championship to be held in Birmingham

| Updated: 25 July, 2023 10:33 pm IST
Indian blind women's football team creates history by qualifying for the World Championship

KOCHI, KERALA: The wait is over! Indian football is finally going to take the world stage, with the Indian blind women’s football team now officially qualifying for the World Championship to be held in Birmingham in August.

It took eight visually impaired women to achieve this feat. The Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF), the only entity authorised by the Paralympic Committee of India & Indian Blind Sports Association to conduct any official blind football activity in India, has put in 10 years of effort to get here. IBFF has been able to conduct seven national championships for men and three for women so far.

This will be the first time ever that India will field a football team as well as a para women’s team for the World Championship, which epitomises the empowerment of both women and the differently abled.

IBFF has been conducting orientation and training camps across the country over the years to identify new players and hone the skills of existing players

IBFF has been conducting orientation and training camps across the country over the years to identify new players and hone the skills of existing players. With blind football played in 24 states, India now has 15 NGOs and 13 state bodies affiliated with IBFF. From among nearly 800 players identified on a national level, 661 players had registered for the various zonal and national level tournaments held in 2023.

“It is a remarkable moment and a milestone achieved by our team. There were indeed a lot of challenges before during the coaching period and finally, we have made it,” said Sunil J Mathew, national coach and sporting director, to The New Indian.

“We had approached the sports ministry for financial aid, but to date, we haven’t received a response from their side. Hence, we have to approach individuals and corporate groups from various quarters across the country for financial aid. I sincerely hope that we will receive government support going forward. I thank all those who have stood with us till date,” Mathew added.

The year 2019 saw the debut of women’s blind football in India. Camps, demo games, and mini-tournaments were held in Nagaland, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Kerala.

The year 2019 saw the debut of women’s blind football in India

 

The First National Women’s Tournament was held by the IBFF in Chennai in 2021 and the second in Pune in 2022. IBFF completed four zonal tournaments for women, with 17 women’s state teams participating. The National Championship for Women was held in Jamshedpur in May 2023. Potential players for the National Team were selected based on their performance in the Zonal and National championships.

A selection camp was held in June for the shortlisted group of 20 blind players, 5 goalkeepers and 3 coaches from which the final team was announced. The training camp for the team is in progress in Kochi and the team will depart for the UK from Kochi on August 12.

IBFF as well as the players hope that this will be a wake-up call for the Sports Ministry, without whose support progressing further will not be possible.

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