“Blind football has evolved a lot across the world. In Brazil, blind football players earn money competing, unlike previous years.”
Fabio Vasconcelos has been fundamental in Brazil’s football 5-a-side success story, winning multiple titles as a goalkeeper and, more recently, as a coach.
During a glittering career, Vasconcelos claimed three successive Paralympic golds between 2004 and 2012. After hanging up his boots, he took charge of the Brazilian team and led it to the 2014 World Championships and the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games crowns.
Now, Vasconcelos aims to add another gold medal to his trophy cabinet, at Rio 2016.
“Our goal for this year’s Paralympics is clear: we want to win the title,” he said.
Brazil was drawn in a tough-looking Group A with the other three regional champions: Morocco, Iran and Turkey.
“Every team aims to put an end to Brazil’s winning streak and its Paralympic hegemony. It is going to be hard,” said Vasconcelos.
If the Rio 2016 hosts move into the semi-finals, they could face South American rivals Argentina, Beijing 2008 silver medallists China or Paralympic debutants Russia or Mexico.
“It will be a very difficult competition, with Argentina, Iran, China and Turkey with the potential to claim the Paralympic title,” he said.
“We need to do a lot of planning, work very hard with much discipline, respecting our rivals and always making one step at a time.”
Even after winning three Paralympic golds, Vasconcelos is hungry for more and has his sights set on glory on home soil.
“I feel proud of being the only player to have won three blind football Paralympic golds. Winning the fourth one in Rio would be a dream come true,” he said.
“At Athens 2004, everything was new to me. In Beijing, I already had an idea of how huge a Paralympic Games was and targeted gold. And at London 2012 I was the most experienced team-member and tried to be a mentor for the younger players.”
Since he started playing, Vasconcelos has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the sport.
“Blind football has evolved a lot across the world. In Brazil, blind football players earn money competing, unlike previous years,” he explained.
With Rio 2016 three months away, Vasconcelos believes the Paralympics will leave an important legacy to the country.
“We will celebrate outstanding Games and this will help develop Para sports in Brazil,” he said.
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.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.