Malawi took a historic step in 2020 when it hosted its first national blind football championships.
The country is riding the wave of the wider development of the sport in Africa and wanted to get in on the action. Cue two organisations that teamed-up to make it happen – Sight 2020 and Chigoli.
Sight 2020 was conceived to fill a gap for youngsters with visual impairments, whilst Chigoli works with players who have nowhere to play organised football.
Dr. Andrew Feyi-Waboso explains how the idea of Sight 2020 was conceived, “We observed that blind children were left to their own devices in Malawi and so we thought a sport like blind football would stimulate them to undertake more physical activities.”
“We know sport for visually impaired children is virtually non-existent in Malawi. We decided to support the introduction of blind football and introduce it to schools beginning with one school at a time.”
Caption: children practise their skills.
After Dr. Feyi-Waboso and Sally Feyi-Waboso decided to go ahead with Sight 2020, Chigoli entered the picture. After an exchange of emails and one Skype conversation, it was agreed that trainers would travel to take part in the initial teaching and development phase of the project.
A pilot programme took place at the Monfort Special Needs Education School in Nguludi. It proved to be a huge success with many children with visual impairments enrolled. They were divided into groups where Feyi-Waboso, assisted by physical education teachers, worked to build their confidence and get them used to running, movements and the ball.
This work, which started in 2014 and has resulted in annual events for blind football and the first coaching camp in 2019, is the first step towards a achieving a bigger ambition - competing on the international stage.
“Malawi has not yet been able to play any tournaments or championships. When the sport is more widely known, we hope that Malawi will be confident enough to send a team.”
With the pandemic around, practical sessions and skills training for students have been put to a halt: “There are many challenges with school closures and our inability to travel to the schools to conduct training and follow up on the teachers who have been trained to introduce blind football in their respective schools.”
As of the future, Waboso plans to introduce blind football into all schools in Malawi and have an annual national blind football tournament.
Caption: seminar participants learn a coaching exercise.
By Sarah S Nasir