“The sport is rapidly growing in Mexico and the team is consequently becoming more competitive."
Mexico will make their football 5-a-side Paralympic debut in Rio, where they aim to upset three-time Paralympic champions Brazil and 2014 World Championships silver medallists Argentina.
The North American team qualified for September’s Paralympics following its bronze-medal performance at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. With Brazil and Argentina as the strong favourites to win the gold at Rio 2016, Mexico is determined to prove they can also cause a major upset.
“We know that Brazil’s and Argentina’s blind football structures are ahead of ours,” said striker Jorge Lanzagorta.
“However, the sport is rapidly growing in Mexico and the team is consequently becoming more competitive.
“The qualification for this year’s Paralympic Games is the result of six years of hard work, during which we have built the blind football foundations and have promoted the sport across the country.”
Mexico lost to Brazil 4-0 and to Argentina 1-0 at the 2015 Parapan American Games. They suffered another defeat against the Rio 2016 hosts 5-0 at the recent International Challenge in Brazil.
But going to Rio as an underdog does not scare Lanzagorta, who still believes Mexico can make a splash at the Paralympics.
“It is hard to face any of the top teams, for sure, but believe me when I say that they did not enjoy playing against us and that we can be Rio 2016’s big surprise.”
Brazil, Argentina and Mexico will be joined by Asian champions Iran, China, European champions Turkey, Russia and African champions Morocco at the Paralympic football 5-a-side tournament.
“The gap between the best teams and the rest is closing. All the teams that have made it to the Paralympics are ready for the challenge,” 30-year-old Lanzagorta said.
“Rio 2016 will be a very competitive event and hard for every team to win.
“I have to admit Russia and Turkey were big surprises for me, since they qualified for the Paralympics to the detriment of London 2012 medallists France and Spain.”
However Mexico’s preparations for Rio 2016 have not been ideal, since the team members live in different cities and it is hard for them to find a time and place to train all together.
“We cannot say what our level is right now because of that issue,” explained Lanzagorta. “We do have individual training programmes so that once we meet, we can focus on the tactics and technique.”
Lanzagorta is also hoping September’s Paralympic Games will provide an opportunity to showcase blind football in Mexico.
“I expect the Paralympic Games to be watched by many people in my country, getting more of them involved and helping raise awareness,” he said.
“Rio 2016 can be a big opportunity to show that football can be played by everyone, including blind people.”
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.