Tatarstan's regional team of visually impaired footballers played a demonstration match in the courtyard of the Kazan's City Press Center and explained the rules of the game to the journalists.
"Football is the most attractive sport for men. All boys play football, even if they lack eyesight," the team's forward Master of Sport Anton Agafonov said.
Blind football is no different from futsal with the same pitch used but with boards like in an ice hockey rink. Each team has four players and a goalkeeper. The coach stands behind the goal during the game and directs the forwards. The only person among the players who is able to see is the goalkeeper, who directs the defenders.
A special ball with tiny bells inside is used so that the athletes can be guided by the sound. In addition, they wear special eye masks to make sure that payers with different degree of vision impairment play on equal terms.
Voice commands play a crucial role in blind football. For example, if the ball is controlled by the rival team, when taking the ball from them they shout BOY to the player to let him know that he is being attacked. This is how the player identifies himself.
Anton explains that besides football, like many other para-athletes, he also does track and field athletics. His teammate Alexander Bikimeyev, a former footballer who played in the amateur league, lost his eyesight a year ago, and now also does martial arts.
Alexander stresses that the hardest thing during the game is to orient oneself in space and to make precise passes to the partner's feet. Otherwise the attack can lose momentum and the rivals will get control of the ball.
The footballers under the guidance of the coach, who was acting as a goalie, showed some techniques on a small pitch in front of the Press Center, and even had a demo penalty shootout — the seeing goalie could not deflect several of the strikes.
"Sport is always fascinating; it is a good rehabilitation measure for visually impaired and blind people. You don't feel inept or want to stay indoors. You walk onto the pitch and mix with other people," Agafonov concluded.