IBSA Blind Football’s ambitious development plan to boost the game in Central America was initiated successfully in San José, Costa Rica, this week.
The IBSA Blind Football Central American Development Project, funded through the 2017 IPC sport grant, aims to fully integrate countries in the area in the game’s competitions and world ranking.
Over the past days in Costa Rica, ten referees from four Central American countries - Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica - attended a refereeing education course involving classroom sessions and practical on-court sessions with the Costa Rican national team.
In addition, blind sports leaders from the four countries met representatives from blind football to set out plans which will lead to a Central American country taking part in the IBSA Blind Football World Championships for the very first time.
Caption: participants pose in front of the IBSA flag on a blind football pitch.
Blind football is a new but popular sport in the region, having been introduced just a few years ago. Support from the Brazilian Blind Sports Confederation led to programmes in five of the six Spanish-speaking countries in the region - the four countries in attendance plus El Salvador. In addition, Panama is setting up a development programme.
Development led to recent unofficial events with teams from the countries, including Central American Blind Football Championships in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, last December involving four countries and hosted by FENADECI, the Honduran National Blind Sports Federation. Costs Rica ran out winners of the event, defeating the hosts 3-0 in the final (full results in Doc
The IBSA Blind Football Central American Development Project will build on this work to fully integrate Central America into blind football.
With support from the project, Central America will hold its first ever sanctioned championships in the last quarter of this year, where it is hoped all six countries will compete. Crucially and according to a decision of the IBSA Football Committee, the winners of the tournament will be awarded a slot to take part in the IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid in summer 2018.
Countries now have until May 24th to submit bids to organise the event, and the host will be selected and announced shortly afterwards. The Central American championships are scheduled to take place between 5th and 12th November.
Jorge Mario Cifuentes, Central American representative on the IBSA America Committee, attended the meetings and was delighted with the outcome: “For Central America and for blind sport this referee training and the meetings were extremely important. Blind football is in a development stage in the region, with five countries currently building up their teams.”
“Educating the referees is crucial because they can now work in their respective countries. It’s also important looking ahead to the Central American championships, a qualifier for the world championships in 2018 in Spain.”
“We would like to thank the IBSA Football Committee for coming here to share its expertise. From now on blind football in the region will develop more quickly and the Central American countries will join the other countries in the world.”
“Competing in top-level competitions, official IBSA events, is what all sportspeople aspire to. Central America will be well represented in the world championships, regardless of which team qualifies.”
Henry Cárdenas, President of the Costa Rican Blind Sports association and organiser of the referee training and meetings, expressed his satisfaction and went on to thank IBSA: “We believe Costa Rica and the region as a whole is capable of strong growth, and we are grateful to IBSA and the Football Committee for its assistance. The refereeing course went very well and the participants are all very committed to the game.”
“We need to think big, and not just focus on the tournament later this year. This will make us stronger. We’re very satisfied and we think it has been a great success for all the participants.”
“I’ve spoken to our players and coaching staff, and they’re highly motivated because they are beginning to dream about taking part in world championships. I’ve explained they need to train hard and qualify to be at the world championships, where the best teams from all over the globe play. They’re excited and working to improve as players. I can see their enthusiasm.”
“This opportunity will encourage new players to become involved, and we’re going to spread the word about the tournament. It’s a priority for us this year.”
Caption: Mariano Travaglino from Argentina conducted the referee training course.