The draw has been made for the IBSA Blind Football European Qualifier and Division 2 Championships in Romania next month.
Eight teams have entered the competition, the first ever 2nd division regional competition in blind football, and it will take place in Bacau, in the north-east of the country, from April 1st to 9th.
The top two teams from the tournament will qualify for the IBSA Blind Football European Championships in Berlin, Germany, in August.
In Group A, the hosts Romania will face Georgia, Ireland and Albania, and Greece, Belarus, Moldova and the Czech Republic were drawn in Group B.
Matches will kick-off on Tuesday April 4th.
The draw was made yesterday at the headquarters of the Romanian Football Federation by Ion Vladoiu, former Romanian internationalist, Mihai Nistor, captain of the Romanian blind football team, and Sorin Lapadatu, Vice President of the Romanian NPC.
Caption: image of a blind football and black goggles at the draw yesterday.
Sally Wood-Lamont, President of the Romanian NPC and IBSA Europe Chairwoman, said, “The IBSA Blind Football European Qualifier and Division 2 Championships in Bacau is the first major event for blind football in Romania and a big step in the continuous campaign to promote Paralympic sport to the public. Six of the teams are from the former Eastern European bloc and that makes it a real accomplishment for IBSA Europe Football.”
“For the Romanian team, another bonus is that the Romanian Football Federation have become involved for the first time - they held the draw yesterday at the National Football headquarters attracting a lot of publicity and also are donating the trophies for the winners.”
“For the members of the Romanian team these championships are the pinnacle of their ambitions and, of course, qualification for the European Championships, would be their dream come true. We thank IBSA Blind Football for choosing us as the hosts for this competition and we hope Romania will be considered for other major championships in the future.”
A spokesman for IBSA Blind Football said, “We’re delighted by the number of countries that have entered the competition. Bearing in mind this is the first time we have organised this event, having eight teams in the competition is a great success and shows how far we have come in developing blind football in Europe.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for up-and-coming national teams to take part in a top-level official IBSA event, with the added incentive of two slots in Berlin up for grabs. We’re looking forward to a great tournament and we hope it will be just the first of many division 2 championships in Europe and in other continents.”
Run-down on the teams:
Sixth in the 1st IBSA Euro Challenge Cup in Prague in 2014, Romania ran out winners of the 2nd Euro Challenge in 2016 in Thessaloniki, Greece, and are currently ranked 34th in the IBSA Blind Football World Ranking Table
Georgia made its international debut in official competitions at the IBSA World Games in Seoul in 2015. 25th in the IBSA rankings, they were runners-up in Thessaloniki in 2016, losing out to Romania on penalties in the final.
Ireland’s blind football team will be making its international debut in Bacau. Unranked.
Another newcomer to the international scene, Albania made its debut in Greece last year at the 2nd IBSA Euro Challenge Cup, finishing fifth. Currently ranked in 41st place.
Greece is the most experienced of all the teams in the tournament, having participated in European championships since 1997. Greece is the top ranked team in the tournament, currently sitting in 24th place in the IBSA Blind Football World Ranking Table.
The Czech Republic came second in Prague in 2014 and will be looking to repeat or better that performance in Bacau. 39th in the IBSA rankings.
Moldova came fifth in Prague and moved up to third place in Thessaloniki last year. 35th in the world rankings.
The Belarus national team returns to international duty, having played only once in the past in France at the European Championships in 2009, finishing in 9th place. Currently unranked.
All the participating teams have received support from the IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe, backed by UEFA.
The IBSA Blind Football European Qualifier and Division 2 Championships are organised by the Romanian Paralympic Committee and will take place at the TNT Sports Club.
For more information on the championships contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Caption: close-up of the winners' trophy.