The Beautiful Side of the Beautiful Game

By Mat Killeen

Losing My Sight Magazine have partnered up with the Hampshire FA to give blind and partially sighted people in the Portsmouth area a chance to socialise through the beautiful game.

The idea, which was the brainchild of LMS founder, Dave Taylor, will see ten sessions which are split into two halves- one hour of blind football and one of partially sighted football. The sessions will take place at Fratton Community Centre on Monday from 11am to noon for blind players and noon to 1pm for partially sighted players. These sessions will be taken by a Hampshire FA coach.

Dave Taylor, Chairman of Losing My Sight, the charity behind these sessions said: “Football has both a health and team-building aspect to it and it’s also a lot of fun. It also provides the visually impaired and blind community a chance to come together as a team”.

At the end of the ten weeks, LMS may look to set up a partially sighted team which would then compete against other local partially sighted teams and also in a new tournament bearing the name of the charity.

Another person instrumental in helping to set up the sessions was Dave Daniels. As a member of Hampshire Visually Impaired Cricket Club, Dave had already seen first-hand the effect sport can have by bringing people together. When asked how the sessions had been received so far he said: “We had a fairly good response from a selection of visually impaired and blind people of all ages and genders. It also provided an opportunity to try something new as many had never played either blind or partially sighted football before.

Blind and partially sighted football are not just different from the traditional 11-a-side game, they are also different from one another. Blind football, which features at the Paralympic Games, is 5-a-side on an indoor pitch with boards running along both touchlines to keep the ball in play. The ball that is used is made with discs inside it that make a rattling noise so the players can locate it as they all wear blackout shades. The goalkeepers are fully-sighted and there are coaches stood around the edge of the playing area to help players with various visual elements of the game.

Meanwhile, partially sighted football is 7-a-side and played on a futsal pitch. All players including the goalkeepers are visually impaired. Unlike in blind football, the ball that is used for this game does not make a noise.