Austria has made history by officially announcing the creation of its women’s blind football national team – the first in Europe.
The announcement is the result of the hard work and commitment of everyone involved in developing blind football in the country over the past years. Austria joins Japan and Argentina on the international scene, with other countries about to launch their teams in the run up to two key events on the calendar for women’s blind football next year.
Veteran player Bettina Sulyok already made blind football history two years ago when she captained the Austrian mixed national team at the 2018 Euro Challenge Cup in Krakow, Poland.
Caption: the Austrian women's team - Kerstin, Angelika, Bettina, Dani and Sibel.
There is already a regular training operation and the team around skipper Bettina trains every Saturday, together with the men, at ASKÖ 20 in Vienna's Hopsagasse.
The main goal of the newly-formed team right now is to take part in international tournaments and events, such as the IBSA international women's camp and games in Hereford, England, in July 2021
On the field, the team is led by the experienced Bettina Sulyok, while goalkeeper Tanja Hengl (not pictured) ensures safety at the back. The team is coached by Joe Steinlechner, who was delighted to be part of the announcement:
“I am incredibly proud of the development of blind football in Austria. I would never have dreamed that we would serve as a role model for European football nations. It's wonderful that your hard work is rewarded. All of this would have been simply impossible without the great support of Österreichischer Behindertensportverband
– the Austrian Disabled Sports Federation - and our main sponsor Audio 2
- thank you for helping us to make history!"
“We are all incredibly proud of this great achievement, which is the culmination of years of hard work and wouldn't have been possible without this great support we received nationally, but also internationally through the blind football development programme at IBSA. I can also announce that our team has already grown since its inception: we are happy to welcome Katha Kühnlein to our team, who we consider to be the best female player in the world!”
Caption: trainer Steinlechner with the team.
Captain Bettina Sulyok was equally happy with the news: “It's just unbelievable how our team has developed over the last year. Each individual is very important to our team - each with their particular strengths that they can bring. Our coach Joe, who uses a lot of his free time on this project, plays a very central role in the positive development: he is a great trainer, motivator, organizer and an important part of our team. I am proud and grateful to be part of this team. Team spirit, respect and enjoyment of team sports - that is what makes our special strength!"
The youngest players on the team are 20-year-old twins Dani and Angelika. Dani was thrilled at the prospect of being part of the team: “I am really proud to be part of the first female team in Europe! We are all highly motivated and really excited about the coming years and what they will have in store for us.” Her sister Angelika was equally excited: “I think it's really great that female blind football in Austria has grown so wonderfully despite the current situation. I am looking forward to international experiences and can't wait to meet female players from other countries.”
The team is now aiming to one day take part in a major event, and with two major ones coming up in 2021 – the camp and games in England and then the inaugural IBSA Blind Football Women’s World Championships
in Nigeria in November. The dream of sending an Austrian team to the world championships has certainly taken off during this historic day.
On another note, a course on coaching blind football aimed in particular at female coaches will be held in Vienna. Register here
Austria has been instrumental in the development of the women’s game as it hosted the first international camp and games in May 2017. The event brought together 75 people from four continents, including 60 women involved in the games in various roles as players, coaches, referees, guides and so on.
For more information on blind football in Austria, visit www.blindenfussball.at
. The programme is also very active on all the main social media.
IBSA Blind Football helped to kick off the game in Austria in October 2016 through introductory workshops and training sessions as part of the UEFA
-supported IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe
Caption: participants pose with the IBSA flag at introductory blind football workshops in Vienna in 2016.