Paralympic Football and the Love of the Game

Originally written for

I have played soccer (football to the world) for as long as I can remember. It is a game that requires the utmost of your body and mind, which is why those who play on the world’s stage are known as geniuses and often draw adjectives akin to “brilliant.” These athletes are physically exceptional in every way, and in every moment rely on their gifts to play at the highest level. There are those, however, without the same faculties who achieve an altogether different and possibly more substantial brilliance in the game of football. Members of Paralympic Football 5-a-side teams play with visual impairments and rely rather on the sounds of their teammates and “guide” coaches to play the ball down the field and score. Their fields are smaller and each team is allowed one guide who may stand off the field to shout directions. The ball and their boots are also fitted with noise-making devices that help players to locate it and one another. The goalies are allowed to be “sighted” athletes, and though seemingly unfair, that does not always matter as the impaired athletes make up for what they lack in cleverness, unpredictability and intuition. As a lifelong footballer I cannot imagine playing without the use of my eyes, much less achieving anything of quality like these athletes can on a consistent basis. With blindness, players must learn to trust their instincts, teammates and coaches far beyond the extremities we see in the superstars of our time. These Paralympic athletes are a beacon that those with less can remind us to be more as well as feel more in the activities that we love.

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