The first quarter of 2020 reaches a culmination point of success for blind football in Zimbabwe as the sport hits the country’s ten provinces.
Amongst the Zimbabwe football fraternity, “Go Bhora!” (meaning go football in English) is a Shona term to celebrate the scoring of a goal. In recent times, the term has become synonymous with goal celebrations in blind football, and even more so since the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee (ZNPC) successfully implemented the sport across the country’s ten provinces.
Since the introduction of blind football in Zimbabwe in 2018, the sport had made significant headway, reaching special schools and educational institutions for the blind in the following eight provinces: Harare, Manicaland, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, and Masvingo. The aim of the ZNPC’s country-wide trip, completed from Monday 3rd February 2020 to Saturday 14th March 2020, was to implement the sport through coaching clinics in the remaining two provinces - Midlands and Mashonaland Central - as well as engage additional educational institutions in the other eight provinces.
Caption: penalty practise at a training session.
The first week of the trip involved coaching clinics at Mahuwe Primary and School in Mashonaland Central province, Jairos Jiri Association School for the Blind in Mashonaland West province, and McKeurtan Primary School in Bulawayo province. Thereafter, coaching clinics were held in the remote areas of Matabeleland North province at Fatima Primary School in Jotsholo (Lupane district) and Chipale Primary School in Lusulu (Binga district).
After leaving Matabeleland North, the ZNPC proceeded to Matabeleland South province to conduct follow-up blind football coaching clinics with primary and secondary students at Solusi School and Mtshabezi School. In Masvingo province, a five-day blind football coaching clinic was hosted at Copota School for the Blind, which also included two students and four teachers from Mutendi High School as well as one teacher from Great Zimbabwe University.
The penultimate week included a follow-up coaching clinic at St Faith Primary School in Manicaland province and Nyamuzuwe High School in Mashonaland East province. In addition, a two-day coaching clinic was held at Murewa Primary and High School in Mashonaland East to introduce blind football to the primary school students and complete follow-up training with the high school girls blind football team.
The ZNPC concluded their trip by introducing blind football at St Giles Special School in the capital city of Harare and Lower Gwelo Adventist School in Midlands province. A training session was also held with the blind football players at University of Zimbabwe.
Caption: orientation and mobility activity with Murewa Primary School students.
New and regular participants in blind football reported noticing improvements in self-esteem, mobility, friendships, and physical fitness. Most importantly, in remote areas of the country, such as Binga district where disability is fiercely stigmatised, blind football has made the participants with visual impairments feel equal to their sighted peers.
“Ever since I started playing blind football, I equate myself to others who have no disability. What amazes me most is that the goalkeeper is sighted, but the players that are blind score past them. It makes me feel like an auto machine!” said Wilson Ncube, a 43-year-old participant from Lusulu in Binga district.
For those who discontinued playing 11-a-side football after losing their sight during their adolescence, participating in blind football has rekindled their love for the game. This is evidenced by Valentine Mpofu, a member of the Copota School for the Blind high school football team who lost his sight at 13 to glaucoma:
“I was not that active when I lost my sight. I was introduced to blind football in 2019 and I was very happy as a person who used to play football. Football is my passion. It is like it’s in my blood. When I am emotionally disurbed, blind football can wipe away all the stresses. When I am on the pitch, I enjoy a lot and forget everything else”.
With Zimbabwe well established to be the hub for blind football in Southern Africa, the ZNPC plan to hold regional coaching clinics for men, women, and youth across Zimbabwe after COVID-19, and also invite its neighbouring countries such as: Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.
You can follow the journey of blind football in Zimbabwe by liking the Zimbabwe NPC’s Facebook
page. Join the IBSA Blind Football African Network on Facebook
to receive updates on the development of Blind Football across the African continent. Follow IBSA Blind Football on Facebook
Caption: group photo featuring Jairos Jiri Association School for the Blind girl’s team.