What is Blind Football?

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games begin on 24 August, with the Football 5-a-side competition kicking off on the 29th. 

What kind of football is played at the Paralympic Games? 

Football was introduced at the 1984 Paralympics, held across New York in the United States and Stoke Mandeville in the United Kingdom. 

The 1984 Games had two 7-a-side tournaments, one for standing athletes (played in New York) and one for wheelchair athletes (held in Stoke Mandeville). Since then, 7-a-side football was played at every Paralympics up to 2016, and has been just a men's standing event. Wheelchair football did not continue after 1984.

The Pararoos -  Australia’s National Football Team for athletes with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms acquired from stroke - took part in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, qualifying as hosts. 

However, with 7-a-side football not included in the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Paralympics, the men's 5-a-side is the only football that will take place for at least the next two Paralympic Games. 

What is Football 5-a-side?

Football 5-a-side was first introduced at the Athens 2004 Paralympics, and has been played at every Games since. Outside of the Paralympics, Football 5-a-side is known as Blind Football and is governed by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA).

IR Iran v Brazil
IR Iran v Brazil in the Football 5-a-side Gold Medal Match at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Football 5-a-side is exhilarating to watch and is one of the world’s most popular Para sports. People are often surprised by how quick, physical and technical Blind Football is. This is what makes it such a hugely popular sport.

The game is played outdoors by athletes who are completely blind (B1 Paralympic classification) on a 40m x 20m synthetic grass pitch, with side kickboards and an audible ball.

There are two teams of five; four outfield players and a goalkeeper. The outfield players wear eye-shades to equal their sight and the goalkeeper can be fully or partially sighted. Additionally, each team has a guide behind the opponent’s goal to direct the players when they shoot.

Australia's Blind Football National Team did not qualify for 2020 but will be pushing to make the 2024 and 2028 Games, off the back of qualifying for the 2032 Games with Australia hosting the Paralympics in Brisbane. 

You can learn more about Blind Football and Australia's National Team here