The German football 5-a-side team travel to Hereford, Great Britain, this week with hopes to secure a qualification slot for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The team will have to reach the final of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football European Championships, taking place from 22-29 August, in order to reach that goal.
A total of 10 teams play in two groups at the Royal National College in Hereford. Germany has to play host country Great Britain, Italy, Poland and Turkey, who they will face in their opening game on Saturday (22 August). Winner of that match will have good prospects of reaching the semifinal.
“We have to deliver our top performance right from the start and focus,” said team manager Rolf Husman.
It will not be easy for Germany, as they have to compensate for four injured players. Three of them were injured in the last test game against Spain just four weeks before the Championships.
“This has hit us hard,” said Husmann.
Ali Can Pektas is out with a torn ACL, and will be replaced by Sebastian Schafer. Alexander Fangmann tore a ligament in his ankle but is back in training and will be able to play in Hereford. Vedat Sarikaya also injured his ankle and his status for the Championships is uncertain. After all these bad news, Mulgheta Russom had an accident just before the Championships and will be out of the tournament.
Husmann and head coach Ulrich Pfisterer decided to nominate 15-year-old hopeful Rasmus Narjes to fill the gap. Being the youngest player on the team, Narjes already has the experience of some Bundesliga games and international club tournaments.
With the European Championships in sight, the players have dedicated plenty of time to get prepared, Husmann said.
”The team has never been as powerful and fit as they are now,” he said. “In addition, several training courses were held throughout the year where the team worked harder and more intensive than in the years before.
“We have not changed the structure lately. All of the guys know their positions well and we have a lot of faith in the team to deliver a good performance at the European Championships.”
Despite all the setbacks, the goal is clear: Rio 2016.
It would be Germany’s Paralympic debut in the sport, which entered the Paralympic programme in the Athens 2004 Games.
“We did have better chances without all the injuries,” said Husmann. “But none of us wants to be discouraged from reaching our goal.”
For more information on the IBSA Blind Football European Championships, please visit the event website.