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Paralympic sport

How blind and partially sighted soccer began

Wearing a red t-shirt and black eyeshades, Noah Beckman dribbles the ball down the soccer pitch which has blue turf.

Soccer for the blind and partially sighted originated in schools for people with visual impairments.

Spain is considered to be the pioneer of the sport having started play in the 1920s. In the 1960s there was activity in Brazil that held its first national championships being in 1974.

Without a governing body at the time, each country played according to different rules and with varying balls, pitches and playing surfaces. However, as the game grew, friendly international tournaments were held.

In 1996, after decades of development by individual countries, football was taken under the wing of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA).

Internationally recognized rules were developed ahead of the first major international competitions and IBSA moved forward with two disciplines – blind football for B1 athletes and partially-sighted football for B2 and B3 players. The two groups still compete separately today.

Transforming blind and partially sighted football

Wearing a blue t-shirt and black eyeshades, Antoine Craig dribbles a soccer ball on a field of blue turf.

With a set of rules in place, the first IBSA Blind Football European Championships and IBSA Partially Sighted Football European Championships were both held in Barcelona, Spain, in 1997.

The hosts became the first-ever champions in both tournaments.

In the same year, the Blind Football American Championships made their debut in Asunción, Paraguay. Brazil claimed the win, proving their innate ability on the field extends to more than just sighted football.

Brazil followed up one year later at home in Campinhas by winning the first IBSA Blind Soccer world title. In partially sighted football, the opening world championships were also held in Campinhas. Belarus made history as the winners of that tournament. Blind soccer debuted at the Paralympic Games for the first time at the Athens 2004 Paralympics and has been contested at every Games since. Blind soccer is played in 60 countries and has become the fastest-growing Paralympic sport in the world.