Zimbabwe NPC expands football provision across the country for blind and visually impaired students through six training camps.
Participation in blind football is growing abundantly in Zimbabwe thanks to continued support from the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee and the IBSA Football Committee.
Six training camps in six provinces were conducted from 16 to 25 June 2019 for 170 male and female students from mainstream schools, special schools for the blind, universities and vocational training centres.
The camps were organised by Zimbabwe NPC President Michael Bulagango and delivered by IBSA and IPC Volunteer Keon Richardson to introduce the game to blind and partially sighted students as well as identify potential players for the national team.
The first training camp was held at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare for a day on Sunday 16 June was attended by 12 players - 9 men and 2 women. The camp included practical sessions which focused on orientation, shooting, dribbling and game situations with coaches on the ground to support both new and experienced players.
Caption: participants at one of the camp pose for a group photo wearing eyeshades and holding new balls.
The next training camp was at Jairos Jiri School for the Blind in Kadoma, Mashonaland West from Monday 17 to Tuesday 18 June. Standing as a new school and province being introduced to blind football, 20 students-both male and female-were put through their paces at a sports ground adjacent to the school.
The first day focused on orientation, ball familiarity, team games and saying “VOY!”. The following day consisted of matches for male and female, with the coaches and sport coordinators rotating roles as guides and lead coaches in the games for both genders. Both games were end to end and positively received by the wider community who watched the games in amazement.
Murewa High School in Mashonaland East hosted the third training camp from Wednesday 19 to Thursday 20 June, with 18 students attending from the school’s visually impaired resource unit. The host school also invited five visually impaired students from their sister school, Nyamuzuwe High School, to attend the two-day training camp. The camp focused on passing accuracy, shooting from free-kicks and penalties, physical conditioning and attacking and defending positions. The male and female teams were mixed from both schools on the second day and both matches were highly competitive.
The penultimate training camp was situated at the FIFA Football for Hope Centre in Gwabalanda, Bulawayo province. The first day-long training camp on Saturday 22 June included forty students from St Bernard’s Primary, McKeurtan Primary, Godlwayo Primary, and Mtshabezi School who travelled 100 kilometres from Matabeleland South province. The schools were categorised into age groups: Early Childhood Development, Primary School and High School, and played matches following intense training session during the morning.
Caption: girls searching for the ball during a match at Murewa High School.
The next day was the turn for Jairos Jiri Vocational Training Centre, who fielded a mixture of 20 male and female students. The morning activities compromised of technical detail with the ball, followed by small-sided games for the females and full five-a-side matches for the males. Both training camps received a large number of spectators from the local community.
Copota School for the Blind in Masvingo, South-East Zimbabwe, hosted the final training camp from Monday 24 to Tuesday 25 June. Forty students, 20 male and 20 female, from Copota primary and secondary school were called for the two-day training camp. With novice to advanced players at the camp, students were split into four groups of: girls primary, girls secondary, boys primary and boys secondary. Players underwent training on the first day which was centred on space recognition, stopping the ball; dribbling through defenders and shooting. The second day entailed four matches matches across all groups were fiercely competitive but ended with smiles and hugs at the end of the day.
The female students displayed impressive skills over the two days after only being introduced to blind football a week before the camp. Laura Muzambi- a female secondary school student at Copota-found the training camp insightful and thoroughly enjoyable.
“Through the camp I learned new soccer skills and to have more self-confidence. From now onwards I am going to keep on training as it is my dream to go beyond borders with blind soccer,” she said zealously.
The Zimbabwe NPC plans to implement blind football programmes in the remaining four provinces and hold a five-day blind football coaching clinic.
“With resources permitted we will commit to introduce blind football in new institutions and provide with developing football pitches that are conducive for playing the game,” said Zimbabwe NPC President Michael Bulagango.
Donations of balls and eyeshades were made in all six provinces to ensure that the schools have ample equipment to continue their blind football training programme. Blind football will also make its debut as one of six sport competitions at the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Games in Gweru this August. Schools from the country’s ten provinces will battle it out to be crowned inaugural blind football champions of Zimbabwe.
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Caption: Laura Muzambi receiving instructions from her coach at Copota School.