Three new European blind football teams will take part in the IBSA Blind Football Euro Challenge Cup in Kraków, Poland, from Thursday (10 May), as the sport continues to develop at a pace.
Belarus*, Switzerland and Austria will make their debut, playing alongside Hungary, Ireland and hosts Poland.
The Euro Challenge Cup is a biennial tournament as part of the IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe. It is backed by UEFA who renewed their support through their ‘Football for all Abilities’ campaign in December 2018.
Referee training will also take place ahead of the competition, with those officials going on to oversee the games with qualified referees.
As well as UEFA, local partners Tyniecka NWP Kraków Blind Football Club and Kraków City Council have helped with the organisation.
Ulrich Pfisterer, Chairperson of the IBSA Blind Football Committee, said: “In January this year we reported how blind football is taking off around the globe. A total of 36 national teams competed in regional Championships and qualifiers in 2017, an impressive increase from 21 in 2013 and 28 in 2015.
“This project is a crucial part of that development and we are delighted with the progress being made.
“We look forward to welcoming all teams to Kraków for the Euro Challenge Cup, especially the three new countries. It is a direct result of a lot of commitment and work from everyone involved and on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank the countries, local partners and UEFA for their efforts.”
Caption: the Swiss team poses with the IBSA flag. Switzerland is just one of the many European countries to have benefited from the Blind Football Development Project Europe.
The six teams contesting the IBSA Blind Football Euro Challenge Cup have been placed in two groups and the draws will be made on 8 May. Group games and semi-finals will then take place on 10-11 May followed by the final games on 12 May.
Kraków 2018 is the third edition of the event. It was first hosted in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2014 and won by Belgium. Thessaloniki, Greece, staged the tournament in 2016 with Romania claiming the title.
Adding to the sport’s growth a record 16 teams will compete at the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, from 7-17 June including six new teams. Mexico, Costa Rica, Mali, Russia, Thailand and Iran will appear for the first time.
*Belarus competed at the 2009 European Championships but have not taken part in any international tournaments since.
Caption: UEFA Equal Game logo.