The perennial football 5-a-side powerhouse Brazil will have an advantage defending their Paralympic gold medal, when they play at home in September’s Rio 2016 Paralympics. Brazil has won every Paralympics since the sport’s debut in Athens 2004.
But the competition only gets tougher Games after Games. Brazilian star forward Jeferson Gonçalves, better known as Jefinho, noticed that four years ago.
“From the beginning till the end, London 2012 was the hardest competition I have ever played” Jefinho said. “When I was on the podium with a Paralympic medal hanging on my neck, I realised that all the sacrifice and hard work was worth it.”
The 26-year-old was also part of the Brazilian team that also won gold in Beijing 2008, and recently at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games last August, when Brazil defeated Argentina 2-1.
Although the team roster remains almost the same, Jefinho said the Brazilian team has evolved.
“Now we have a new technical committee which has brought new and great ideas that have given a lot to our national team,” he said. “Today we are more dynamic in the defense and in the offense too. This new way of playing has given us more confidence and we believe that we will finish 2016 the same way we finished 2012.”
But just as Brazil has been evolving, so have their competitors, especially their neighbouring rivals Argentina.
“Our rivalry is a big ‘Clasico;’ every game against them it’s very difficult,” Jefinho said. “Both teams know each other very well and we are aware that if we make one mistake against them, we might lose.”
For him, Rio 2016 will also present an opportunity to develop para-sports in Brazil, especially football 5-a-side.
“In Brazil there was a great growth of blind football since Athens, not just with investments but also with the visibility of our sport,” Jefinho said. “The inclusion of football 5 in the Paralympics was the main step for that development.
“This time we have to take advantage that the Games will be held in our country, because people might get more interested and our sport can develop faster. Throughout that interest we will be more visible to sponsors and that will benefit Paralympic sports as well as football 5-a-side.”
Jefinho has noticed that the sport has been improving in many countries around the world, and this growth is having positive effects on the level of competitions.
“Every year the tournaments become more disputed,” he said. “There is a clear evolution of the sport in many countries; however everybody who is involved in this sport has to find new ways to help blind football get a faster development.
“Brazil is getting ready to execute the best Paralympic Games ever,” Jefinho said. “Surely the organisation and structure of the Games will be excellent, and both audience and athletes are ready to make the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the best in history.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.