Toussaint Akpweh, Development Advisor on the IBSA Football Subcommittee, reports on the groundbreaking IBSA Africa Blind Football Open.
“There will be no winners or losers, because by having the chance to play here and now, we’re already part of history”, summarized Sanoussi Sidibe, Senegal’s national team coach, on the first day of the IBSA Africa Open.
Blind football’s African history, till now bereft of official competitions, has seen ink flow on its very first page, in Lambersart Stadium (France), last April 23rd to 27th. Organised by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) and National Blind and Visually Impaired Union (UNADEV), these series of contests were the meeting point of various supporters and football professional players that came to back up their favourite team.
“The issue is huge”, underlines Driss El Mountaqi, Morocco’s coach. “This competition qualifies for the IBSA Blind Football World Championships 2014 and can generate new horizons!”. Rising sun’s one, at least, with the Moroccan national team having qualified to compete against the world’s greatest teams in november in Tokyo.
After two showdowns between Morocco and Senegal, the Atlas Lions came out top in their head to head against the Teranga Lions (1-0 in the first game and 0-0 in the second game), from whom inexperience had been nearly imperceptible looking at the amount of pressure they were able to show during the games.
“Africa has won”, admitted Ali Dia, Senegal’s guide. “We will all be supporting Morocco during the World Cup!”. The tone is sincere and the hugs heartfelt between the two delegations, modelled on a week full of meetings and emotions, welcomed by Neil O’Donovan, IBSA Executive Director: “The very fact that the event took place, that’s a resounding success. It is the visible evidence of progress on the road of this partnership. IBSA takes its responsibility very seriously in developing sports in Africa”.
Laying the foundation stone of IBSA’s development strategy in Africa, this competition is the kick-off of our 2014/2015 programme. National technical centers will indeed open gates in Cameroon, Morocco, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa. “The idea is not to transfer things from Europe to Africa, but to build with African resources the best fertile ground that will allow Africa’s blind and visually impaired people to feel proud of what we’re building”, says Toussaint Akpweh, UNADEV Sports Director and football development advisor for IBSA.
This new focus, based on a development in full collaboration with locals insitutions and national federations, offers the project a concrete and practical package. These different nations will each present a national team, by 2015, for the Africa Cup of Nations, qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
To relive this fantastic competition watch the whole match on our Youtube playlist:
Or just to have a taste, here is a TV report on the final game:
Football Development Advisor