“I am really excited about the countries that are drawn in our group. We have some of the best countries in the world and playing against the best is ultimately how you get better."
Bandiougou Traore will be a key player for the Mali blind football national team that makes its debut at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, between 7 and 17 June.
The budding striker scored five goals at the African Championships last October, four of which were in Mali’s opening game where they thrashed hosts Cape Verde 12-0.
The Eagles flew into the gold medal final against Morocco and despite losing to the three-time African champions, finishing second secured Mali a spot at the World Championships for the first time in history.
“We went to Cape Verde with the goal of qualifying for the 2018 World Championships. Accomplishing this goal gives me a great sense of pride and it is a clear indication of our progress since we began five years ago,” Traore said.
With a little over a month until their Worlds debut, the Mali National Team completed a training camp last week in the capital, Bamako, and will be travelling to Paris to play France this month to tune the Malian players’ focus towards their anticipated Worlds debut.
Mali have three tough opponents in Group D: reigning Paralympic and world champions Brazil, European bronze medallists England and Central American champions Costa Rica.
However, Bandiougou sees the teams in Group D as an opportunity for Mali to battle with the crème de la crème in blind football.
“I am really excited about the countries that are drawn in our group. We have some of the best countries in the world and playing against the best is ultimately how you get better. Our fundamental goal is to progress out of the group stages and go as far as we can in the World Championships.”
Mali’s first ever game in the sixteen-team tournament will be against Brazil on 8 June.
The 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships will be held in Madrid, Spain, from 7-17 June, and will feature 16 of the world’s best teams. As well as the title on offer, the competition is also an important step on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.