African Championships to crown goalball qualifiers

Eight women’s teams, five men’s teams are set to compete for Rio 2016. 26 Feb 2016
IBSA Goalball
ⒸIBSA Goalball
By Rosanna Haroutounian | For the IPC

The final goalball spot for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be up for grabs at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball Africa Regional Championships.

From 29 February - 4 March, the regional men’s and women’s teams will compete in Algeria in what is being called the largest goalball tournament of its kind ever held in Africa.

“Goalball in Algeria is highly developed and practiced regularly,” said Abdelkader Kelfat, a spokesperson for the Algerian National Paralympic Committee (NPC). “There are about 20 clubs who practice this sport in Algeria among men and women.”

This is the seventh edition of the African Championships, which began in 2008. Egypt’s men’s team won the first title, and Algeria has won every African Championship since. On the men's side, teams from Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will compete. Kelfat said Egypt remains Algeria’s top goalball rival.

He explained that what began as a way to support the integration of people with impairments in Algeria gained more support from the government in 2000 after goalball and other para-sport teams began winning more high-level titles. Algeria’s men’s team made it to the quarterfinals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

According to Algerian men’s coach Ahmed Ferdjouni, the team’s strength is in its young players who are led by two veteran players – team captain Mohamed Mokrane and Samir Belhouchet.

IBSA and Algeria’s NPC also made an effort to include more women’s teams in this Championship.

The women's competition will consist of teams from Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Tunisia. According to IBSA, the number of women's teams is “unprecedented” for the region and sends a strong message that goalball in Africa is gaining popularity.

This is the first continental Championship for the Algerian women’s goalball team.

“This is a team that is growing and building and the African Championship in Algeria will be the first evaluation of its technical staff,” said the team’s coach Mohamed Bettahrat.

Regional tournaments are newer in Africa, where economic challenges and difficulties travelling between countries create few opportunities for teams to compete against each other. Kelfat added that finding qualified coaches is also a challenge.

IBSA Goalball hosted training workshops for coaching, refereeing and officiating and tournament organisation ahead of the Championships.

"This is a good opportunity to educate a large group of people from different countries while they gather together at a large competition,” said IBSA Goalball Chairperson Kari Rasanen. “We believe we will provide some skills that will make it easier for many countries to develop the skills of players and coaches and also increase the number of competition opportunities."

More information about the IBSA Goalball Africa Regional Championships can be found at IBSA’s website.