Children and coaches from across six countries gathered in Hamburg, Germany, for the inaugural International Blinds Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football European Youth Camp from 2-3 August.
The event was organised by the IBSA Football Committee in partnership with German club FC St. Pauli Blindenfussball, and was held as part of the UEFA-funded IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe, a five-year programme supported by the European football governing body.
The camp saw attendees from Spain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Georgia and Austria, all who enjoyed training sessions headed by German national coach and committee chairman Ulrich Pfisterer.
The players, some of whom have only been playing the game for three months, picked up skills in orientation and mobility in space, communication and ball-handling, and also worked on game-specific situations and tactical understanding.
At the end of the event, each player was presented with a ball to train with at home.
“I have learned how to communicate better with my teammates and improved my positioning on the pitch,” Italy’s Franchesco Cavallotto said. “In blind football, it is important to communicate a lot and all the time.
“You must be willing to learn from others all the time and not think you are the best,” Cavallotto added. “I still have a lot to learn. Passion is important and, as Ulrich [Pfisterer] said, ‘If you are not passionate, you cannot play well.”
Hungary’s Dorottya Velegi has only been playing blind football for four months and said she took away more than basic football skills from the camp.
“Blind football is an international sport and it is good that we can play football,” Velegi said. “It is important for all blind people to know that this sport is there for them to play. This weekend was very useful for me because I met a lot of new people who are doing the same sport but are from different cultures. The one common element that brings us together is football.”
Added Wolf Schmidt, team leader from local partners FC St Pauli Blindenfussball: "It was a fantastic experience for the young players and for the coaches, to feel how passion for football can break barriers. No matter if these are barriers because of different languages, or eyesight, or even both.”
“Football has a strong power to break down or overcome barriers together in a team. It was just a weekend, but you can feel the passionate impulse for starting an international network which helps to develop blind football as a competitive sport for the youngest players.
The youth camp comes ahead of the IBSA Blind Football European Championships, which will be held 22-29 August in Hereford, Great Britain.
For more information on the IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe, visit the IBSA’s website or their Facebook page.