Blind Football

    Asian Blind Football Championships ,Tokyo - 2nd - 7th Sept '15

The Indian Blind Football Team (5-a-side) ranked 28th in the world played its first International Official Tournament at the 6 nation Asian Championships at Tokyo which was also a Rio Paralympics Qualifier between 2nd to 7th Sept 2015.

The Team was put together by SRVC and the Indian Blind Sports Association, New Delhi. Eighteen players chosen from the National Blind Football Tournament earlier in 2015 were invited to the training camp held at Regional Sports centre football grounds at Kochi between 8th to 29th Aug. For the very first time side kick boards kick boards were used for the two long sides (40 meters each) at the venue specific goal posts which were of handball posts size . The camp was hosted by SRVC and an International Blind Sports Instructor and Referee Mr Loo W.K from Malaysia conducted the camp. Players from Delhi, Jodhpur, Dehradun, Kolkatta, Mumbai and Kerala including two sighted goal keepers attended the camp in the first phase. A press conference was held on 13th Aug, where brand ambassador for Blind Football Ms Shriya Saran, Bollywood actress welcomed the players and the initiative. CGH Earth Casino Hotel were the hospitality partners for this project. Mr Biswanath Sinha, Associate Director Tata Trusts Mumbai attended a blind-folded penalty interaction between the players and the public, to create awareness about the game.

The final selected team left for Tokyo from Kochi on 29th Aug. The final 10 members had players from Delhi, Dehradun, Kolkatta and Kerala. Sunil. J. Mathew, Head Coach, M. C. Roy, Manager , Ravi Cosul ( Assistant Coach) and David Absalom ( Chief-de-Mission) accompanied the players as the officials on the trip. The tournament kicked off with India taking on Korea in an entertaining match. The team played well to hold the powerful team to a goal lead at half time but in the end failed to hold on and lost the match 6-0. The second game the following day was against Malaysia, whom the team had played well before. Both the teams played well through the 50 minutes with the Indian team narrowly losing 1-0 on a well worked field goal by Malaysia. The Indian defence led by Krishen Kumar Yadav (Captain), Muhmd Salim Khan, Sameer Khan and the goalkeeper Melson Jacob had two exceptional games. The third game was World No 5 and previous champions Iran - the team was routed out 10- 0 with the Iranians running riot with their superior ball control and physical fitness. The next game for the Indians was against the local hosts, Japan. An almost filled up stadium greeted the players with loud cheering and drum beats encouraging the players. The Japanese led 2-0 at half time and even though the Indian attack showed some promise with teenager Pankaj Kumar making darting moves to the opponents defense, the team finally succumbed 0- 5 to an experienced attack from the host team. The last league game for the Indians were against China, World no 3. Goalkeeper Sanjay Saji made some outstanding saves and an incredible first half performance saw the Indians hold the mighty Chinese goal-less but an all out attack from the World giants saw the Indian team fall short and finally lose 0-4 to the mighty strong team. The good performance against China gave the team confidence as India took on Malaysia in the last match for the 5th and 6th position. The teams were locked goalless with the players in the defence Ananthu and Ramdass playing well till the last 5 minutes when an unfortunate penalty called by the referee saw a goal scored by the Malaysians and the team lose 0-1 in a close, hard fought game with Falhan C S and Abhimanyu Naskar, the Indian forwards almost scoring through his attacking moves. Iran won the tournament beating China in a penalty shootout with both teams booking their places at Rio'16. Korea beat Japan to stand at third position.

Though the tournament turned out win-less for the team, the experience and exposure playing some of the best in the world will definitely hold the team in good stead for the future. The players gained immensely from this International Tournament exposure as they gained confidence and were determined to succeed in the future. The setting up of an independent Blind Football Federation to attract government and corporate financial support for the game is the next goal and efforts are on to bring more talents to the fore, to get recognised at the highest level playing for the nation and thereby encourage in economic rehabilitation.