Written by Australian Blind Football
Last Sunday marked the next step in the development of Blind Football (also known as football 5-a-side at the Paralympics) by Australian Blind Football, with the launch of the National Para Fives Series at The Hangar in Melbourne.
At the launch event, guests including Melbourne Victory's Melina Ayres, Western United FC’s Seb Pasquali, and Hakeem Al-Araibi were given the opportunity to give Blind Football a try, with instructions and demonstrations given by our national squad coaches and footballers. This was followed by an exhibition match between South Melbourne FC and Olympic FC.
The National Para Fives Series is all about providing blind footballers with the opportunity to play competitive matches more often. Matchdays will take place at the national camps in 2021, which will be held in June, September, and October. At the conclusion of the Series in October, the inaugural 2021 National Para Fives Champions will be announced.
Throughout 2021 South Melbourne FC and Olympic FC will take part in the National Para Fives Series. Over the next three years Australian Blind Football aims to have teams representing other ABF4ALL partner clubs, which includes Adelaide Comets FC, Perth Soccer Club, and a soon-to-be announced Sydney based club.
These partnerships not only provide the opportunity for players to represent a local community football club in a national competition, players will also form community connections through these clubs back in their home states at local training sessions. The 2021 National Para Fives Series has been made possible through the generous support from the Professional Footballers Australia’s Footballers Trust and Paralympics Australia.
"It was fantastic to have the national squad back together after over 18 months and to see so many people come along to the launch and experience blind football, some for the first time," Australian Blind Football National Manager Dave Connolly said.
"We want to provide the best platform for our blind footballers to achieve their goals, both individually and as a team, and we believe the National Para Fives Series will do that."
Beau Busch, PFA Co-Chief Executive, enjoyed being part of the launch.
"It was fantastic to see the players come together and have the opportunity to play for the first time in so long, and to see that sense of community and belonging and enjoyment among the players and the organisers," Busch said.
"We’re really happy that through the players and Footballers’ Trust we can make a material contribution to Australian Blind Football and that the participants can benefit directly from that. Our PFA members, including Seb and Melina, are so passionate about supporting the participants as well as a range of other causes through the Trust.
"We’d like to thank Dave and the organising teams who work so hard behind the scenes to bring these events together that no doubt have immeasurable short and long term benefits for the participants."
The national blind football squad will also take on a new name, the Para Fives. As the squad sets their goals for the next Paralympic cycle towards Paris 2024, this is a strategic step for the sport, highlighting that blind football is a para-sport.
"We are excited to have a new name for our national blind football squad, the Para Fives. We believe this name will resonate well with the football community just like the Socceroos, Matildas and Pararoos. We want the football community to know that blind football, and the Para Fives, are part of the football family," Connolly added.
Australian Blind Football is looking forward to the commencement of the National Para Fives series and growing participation in blind football across the country over the coming years, working closely with Paralympics Australia, Professional Footballers, Football Australia, State Member Federations and ABF4ALL partner clubs.
Dave Connolly is a 2020 AMP Tomorrow Maker and this grant has supported Dave’s work in creating resources to support coaches, developing partnerships within the football community across Australia and the creation of the National Para Fives Series.
What is Blind Football?
Blind Football is an internationally recognised sport played at the Paralympics. It is played outdoors by athletes who are totally blind (B1) on a 40m x 20m pitch with side kickboards and an audible ball.
There are two teams of five; four outfield players and a goalkeeper. There is also a goal-guide that stands behind the opposing goal calling out commands to support the players on the pitch to score. The outfield players wear eye-shades to equal their sight and the goalkeeper can be fully or partially sighted.
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