- Date: 14-09-2019
- Related to: Football
By Sarah Nasir | For IBSA
Hosts Italy are hoping that some fresh faces will be the key to a good performance at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football European Championships in Rome from Tuesday (16 September).
The competition, featuring 10 teams, will see the finalists qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
As the countdown enters its final stages, Italy are determined to grab the opportunity with both hands.
“We aim at achieving our objective that is the qualification for Paralympics in Tokyo. But in a tournament involving ten teams, achieving our goal will be a big challenge, even if we will do our utmost and we hope that home court advantage would encourage our group to do more,” Italian player Jacopo Lilli said.
“In recent months we have trained very well. We participated in three international football tournaments, in Silvi, Italy, in Seville, Spain and in Frankfurt, Germany. In Italy, there is great excitement for the Europeans, and we hope there will be the suitable media coverage for an initiative that has still not achieved the visibility it deserves.”
In the last three years the Italian team has gone through a period of rapid professionalisation. They have increased their training, improved their technique and boosted their tactics with the support of their national federation – the Italian Sports Federation for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons (FISPIC).
“Additionally, a boost comes from the entry of two new clubs in the FISPIC, the AC Crema 1908 and Quarto Tempo Firenze, owning enviable organizational structures,” Lilli continued. “Another positive aspect which contributed to increasing our national team, concerns the decision of the federation to have younger players. The presence of so many talented young people allowed us to make a qualitative leap in technical and physical levels.”
As a result, heading into Rome 2019 the team are relaxed and ready for the challenges that will come. In Rome they will face defending title-holders Russia and multiple European champions Spain.
”At this moment we are very chill, but when the Europeans begin, then maybe we will feel a little bit of pressure,” Lilli said. “If so, we hope to transform it into adrenaline and positive energy, which is necessary for overcoming any difficult situations that can happen”.
Although Italy maintains a level of self-confidence, they are also aware that it will not be an easy competition. But they will have their passionate fans behind them.
“First of all, Italian supporters hope to see a good performance, then obviously they hope to celebrate the qualification for the Paralympics. It would be historic, and we hope to please them.” Lilli said.
For him, the chance to pull on an Italian shirt is a source of immense pride:
“Football for me means freedom. This sport allows you to move freely in a football pitch without any help. Thanks to blind football, I made my dream come true because when I was a kid, like many other Italian kids, I wanted to become a footballer. Wearing the Italian team jersey for me is a source of pride and an unspeakable emotion.”
The European Championships take place from 16-24 September 2019.
The competition will feature Italy, Russia, Spain, England, France, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, Romania and Greece.