Imagine China facing off against Brazil in a men’s Olympic football final, sound like a dream? What about losing narrowly to Spain in an international football semifinal? While Chinese football is once again in the duldrums, there is one part of the Chinese soccer program that has been very successful, the country’s blind football team.
Your correspondent recently attended the 8th National Disabled Games in Hangzhou and was surprised by what he saw on the football pitch. The game has plenty of differences from normal football, but the skills on display were real, with the better players displaying some unbelievable ball control skills. Ultimately, Fujian won the title, beating Liaoning in the final and going the tournament without giving up a single goal, a very impressive performance.
Blind football started in Spain in the mid 1980s and has taken off since then, spreading to most football hotbeds like the UK, Brazil, and Argentina. China didn’t pick up on the sport until around 2005 when they started preparing for the 2008 Olympics and decided to organize a squad. It was at that point they went all in, the early players quickly adjusted to the game, found they had a lot of talent, and loved it.
The game is 5-a-side, including a goalie who is sighted, and is played on a your typical 5-a-side pitch, though with waist high walls so the ball is always in play. The ball emits a constant beeping noise allowing players to locate it as well as each team allowed a guide who helps direct the players on the pitch. The game is much more about posession, and especially individual control of the ball and runs.
The players are currently preparing for the 2012 London Paralympics, where the Chinese national team is sure to be one of the favorites to win. That’s right, at least one set of Chinese footballers will represent the country in London and, indeed, they should walk away with a medal!
Here are video highlights from the tournament in Hangzhou:
You can also check out this video from 2009 of a few Shenhua players attempting to face off against the Shanghai team.
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