Guatemala City, the capital of the country, has been confirmed as the host city for the first ever official IBSA blind football championships in Central America.
With competing bids from the Guatemalan Organization for the Blind and Deaf, the IBSA member in the country, and one other country, the IBSA Football Committee chose to award the event to Guatemala.
The championships will take place from November 5th (arrival and beginning of sight classification) to November 12th (departure), with matches expected to begin the morning of Tuesday 7th November. The event is open to the six IBSA member countries in the region - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
Caption: Honduras will be looking to book its place at the World Championships.
Following friendly tournaments in the region in recent years, the IBSA Football Committee launched its Central American Development Project at the turn of this year. Using the 2017 IPC sports grant for Football 5-a-side, the project will support the LOC and participating countries in the run up to the competition and during the event, ensure the engagement of international referees and qualified classifiers, and leave a legacy of top-quality and approved equipment in the region for the countries to continue expanding their national blind football programmes.
As an added incentive and in recognition of the financial and logistical difficulties the countries in the region face to compete at the American Championships, the committee also decided to award the Central American champions a slot at the IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, in June 2018.
Mark Lucas, IBSA America Chairman, was delighted to hear the news: “"This is fantastic for the Americas region to have the IBSA Central America Football Championships, to be held in Guatemala in November.”
“The development of football and other sports for the blind and visually impaired has witnessed tremendous growth in Central America in the past several years, including aspects of improved coaches, more competent officials, and improved athlete skill development, which will translate to more competitive teams that can potentially compete in the World Championships in Madrid next year, and potentially qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics."
“We’re grateful to the International Paralympic Committee for providing the funding we need to make this project a reality. It’s a dream come true for the countries in the region and I know they are all very excited and looking forward to taking part."
“We’re also very grateful to the Guatemalan Organization for the Blind and Deaf for presenting such a strong bid to host, and to the other countries who expressed interest in organising the event.”
Caption: Costa Rica has a strong record in friendly tournament and will be one of the teams to beat in Guatemala.
Ulrich Pfisterer, Football Committee Chairman, underlined the importance of the competition for blind football’s future: “We are more than fulfilling our aim of making blind football a truly global game. With blind football now active in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and now these Central American Championships, we are meeting the requirement for worldwide reach.”
“I had the opportunity to visit Central America myself in April and meet the people involved there, and I know they are all thrilled at the idea.”
“It is fantastic to be able to offer the winners of the tournament a slot to play at the IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid in June next year. Ultimately, we would like to see these Central America championships leading to a qualifying event for the American Championships or Copa de América, as they call it, in the same way as we now have a qualifier for the European Championships because of the sheer number of teams in the continent.”
“Playing in Madrid will be a useful and worthwhile experience for the winning team. Madrid will see matches and players of the very highest standard, and we are happy to offer a place to the Central American champions. It will be a huge learning experience for whatever team wins, but a positive one for blind football in Central America.”