“We are hoping to have a good performance at the Parapan American Games. The team has been developing well and players have learned a lot from their international experiences."
Capitalising on the tremendous popularity of football in Peru, blind football has been making huge steps forward with 100 days to go until the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.
The national team made their international debut at the 2017 Copa America and has since shown major improvements.
In Lima, they will be fighting with powerhouses Argentina and Brazil, as well as more experienced teams such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico.
NPC Peru Blind Football Commission President Jaime Drago said: “We are hoping to have a good performance at the Parapan American Games. The team has been developing well and players have learned a lot from their international experiences.
“The team has been on an upward curve and is solid. The toughest rivals are definitely Argentina and Brazil.”
Blind football in Peru started as a recreational sport. Balls used to be put inside a bag so that people with vision impairment could hear them better when bouncing around the field.
Drago added: “The sport was formalised following the creation of NPC Peru in 2015.
“Ever since, we started implementing a working plan to promote the sport, get more people engaged and identify players across the country. We visited different regions and found out people were playing the sport but without official rules.
“It has been a tough work, especially from national coach Felipe Ramirez. This is how we could form our current Peruvian team.”
The Agitos Foundation, the International Paralympic Committee’s development arm, has also supported the promotion of the sport through its ‘Road to Lima 2019’ programme, which provides training and educational opportunities to coaches, classifiers, technical officials and athletes.
Looking into the future, Drago is hoping to “reach all regions in Peru and participate in more international competitions. The team is very united and Lima 2019 will open many doors for us.”
Drago is a former professional football player, having represented Peru at the Copa America and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“My father and two siblings were football players as well. The passion for football is in my blood. I started to get involved with Para sports thanks to my relationship with NPC Peru President Lucha Villar.
“With Lima 2019 approaching, there is a growing interest in the Paralympic Movement and we can see how Peruvian athletes are achieving better results across all sports.”
Lima 2019 will take place between 23 August and 1 September and will feature over 1,800 athletes competing across 17 sports, overtaking Toronto 2015 as the biggest Parapan American Games in history.