In a remarkable achievement for Indian football, a group of eight determined and visually impaired women have paved the way for their nation’s debut on the global stage. These exceptional athletes are set to represent India at the IBSA World Championship, a prestigious international multi-sport event organized by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), scheduled to take place in the United Kingdom from August 14 to 21.
A Decade-Long Pursuit of Excellence
This momentous journey for the Indian Women’s Blind Football Team has been a culmination of relentless dedication spanning ten years. The Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) stands as a testament to their unyielding effort and commitment. The team’s qualification for the IBSA World Championship not only signifies a remarkable sporting achievement but also embodies a powerful message of empowerment for women and differently-abled individuals.
The Indian squad emerged from a competitive selection process, which began with a shortlist of 20 blind players, five sighted goalkeepers, and three coaches. The extensive training camp held in Kochi was a crucible of preparation, nurturing their skills and camaraderie.
A Hope for Support and Triumph for Indian Women’s Blind Football Team
As the Indian women’s blind football team prepares to embark on their journey to the UK, the IBFF and the players are optimistic about receiving the backing of the Central and State Sports Ministries. Recognizing the pivotal role that support plays in their progress, the federation is actively seeking assistance to ensure the team’s success on the world stage.
🚨 | The Indian women's blind football team has qualified for the games after a 10-year-long effort put in by the Indian Blind Football Federation (@Blindfootie ). This will be first time that India will field a football team as well as a para women's team for a World Cup. [PTI]… https://t.co/DykrypA62G— 90ndstoppage (@90ndstoppage) August 8, 2023
The forthcoming IBSA World Championship will see India pitted against formidable opponents. Their initial fixture against Austria on August 14 marks a historic milestone, as it signifies the first time an Indian women’s team has participated in a global championship. Subsequent matches against Argentina and Germany further underscore their remarkable achievement.
Unveiling a Unique Form of Football
Observing an exhibition game of the Indian women’s blind football team provides a glimpse into the distinctive nature of this inspiring sport. From a distance, the match resembles a standard five-a-side football game. However, as one draws closer, a striking detail emerges—the players don eye masks, concealing eye patches that render them completely blind. Guided solely by the auditory cues of a jingling ball, these athletes navigate the field with remarkable skill and determination.
Among those captivated by this demonstration were distinguished individuals, including Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, Venu Rajamony, the State government’s officer on special duty for external cooperation, and actor Sijoy Varghese. The display left an indelible impression on these observers, highlighting the significance of the Indian women’s blind football team’s participation in the upcoming IBSA World Games.
A Vision for the Future
Sunil J. Mathew, the sporting director of the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) and head coach of the women’s team, shares a vision of further growth and success. He recounts the federation’s efforts to develop the women’s blind football team over the past three years. With over 100 registered players across eight State teams, their aspiration extends beyond mere participation; they aim for a podium finish that would secure recognition from Paralympic India and much-needed funding. The team’s current operations rely on sponsorship, including corporate social responsibility funds, underlining the importance of continued support.
A Diverse and Resilient Squad
The Indian women’s blind football team is a testament to unity in diversity. Comprising players from various states—Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, and Kerala—the team transcends linguistic, cultural, and religious boundaries. Their inspiring cohesion prompted Arundhati Roy to commend them as a symbol of liberation through sports, transcending challenges and empowering women of all abilities.
A particularly young team, with an average age of 18, the players bring a blend of enthusiasm and determination to the field. Among them is the 12-year-old striker Akshara Rana, hailing from Uttarakhand, who serves as a beacon of promise for the team’s future endeavors. Her participation required special arrangements, including authorization from her parents and local guardians, exemplifying the extent to which the team’s dedication spans.
A Collective Effort to Bridge Funding Gap
As the Indian women’s blind football team approaches the much-anticipated IBSA World Championship, they face a pressing financial challenge. Despite their remarkable achievements, they are still short of funds required to cover expenses, with the Games merely a week away. The IBFF has embarked on a crowdfunding initiative to bridge this gap and ensure that these deserving athletes have the resources they need to compete at their best.
A Historic Opportunity and a Bright Future
When the Indian women’s blind football team takes the field against Austria on August 14, history will be etched into the annals of Indian sports. Their participation in the IBSA World Championship marks not only a groundbreaking achievement for the team but also a significant stride towards inclusivity, empowerment, and recognition of differently-abled athletes in India.
As the world watches these indomitable women challenge the limits of their abilities, they carry with them the aspirations and hopes of a nation. Their journey is a testament to the power of determination, unity, and the transformative impact of sports. Through their pursuit of excellence, they redefine what it means to be athletes, champions, and above all, agents of change.
In the midst of their preparations and anticipation, the Indian women’s blind football team embodies the spirit of courage, resilience, and unwavering dedication. Their journey is not just a sporting event; it is a narrative of triumph over adversity, a celebration of human potential, and a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.