Sport Week: History of football 7-a-side

Learn how the sport grew over the past 36 years on the international stage. 26 May 2016
Football 7 Athens 2004

Jean Rodriguez of Brazil, left, and Javier Sosa of Argentina competed during a Football 7-a-Side match at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Argentina is trying to become hosts of the 2019 Parapan American Games.

ⒸGetty Images

The first international football 7-a-side competition was held in Edinburgh, Great Britain, in 1978 during the third edition of the Cerebral Palsy International Games.

It was at these Games where Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation (CPISRA) was founded to be the global governing body of the sport. Today, the International Federation for Cerebral Palsy Football (IFCPF) looks over the sport.

Football 7-a-side gained international traction in the 1980s.

Athletes with cerebral palsy first took part in the Paralympic Games in Arnhem 1980. But it was not until the New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games where football 7 was included in the Paralympic programme. Then, Belgium garnered the first Paralympic title, defeating Ireland.

The sport’s first World Championships was at the CPISRA World Games in 1982 in Denmark. The first regional Championships were held in Glasgow, Great Britain, in 1985.

Between 1988 and 1996, the Netherlands emerged as the leading nation, claiming Paralympic golds in Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. But since then, the powers have shifted to Russia and Ukraine.

The two nations have gone back and forth for the Paralympic gold medal.

Russia won the gold in Sydney 2000, but Ukraine won it at Athens 2004 after defeating Brazil. Russia and Ukraine met in both finals of the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics, splitting the gold both times. In those past two Games, Iran emerged as a rising nation.

Russia has won the last three World Championships and will be the nation to beat at Rio 2016, where 112 athletes from eight countries will participate.

Helpful links:

IFCPF history webpage

Rio 2016 football 7-a-side webpage

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.


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.