Blind football in Belgium continues to develop at a tremendous pace, and it took one more step towards international level this weekend when an experienced coach - former England/GB trainer Tony Larkin - travelled to Charleroi to run two days of intensive training with local players.
Fifteen players from the two teams in the country – Cécifoot Charleroi and Cécifoot Anderlecht – gathered to be put through their paces during eight hours of training over two days. While of course they were tired at the end, all the players, ranging in age from 10 to 30 years old, benefited from this intensive schedule under the supervision of a highly experienced and respected coach.
Blind football in Belgium is run by the Ligue Handisport Francophone
in the French-speaking part of the country. The Ligue hopes to set up another club soon in Mons, and there are plans to extend the sport to the north of the country also.
The Ligue has established a partnership with the Francophone Association of Football Clubs
and plans are afoot to set up a permanent ground at the Royal Belgian FA’s training centre in Tubize, close to Brussels.
Belgian teams are competing in the French blind football championships, giving them valuable match experience against players who have taken part in IBSA European and world championships and in the Paralympic Games.
The Belgian training camp forms part of the IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe
, run by the IBSA Football Subcommittee thanks to financial support from UEFA. The project envisages priority support for a group of emerging countries who are keen to develop grassroots football opportunities for their blind and partially sighted players, and also move along the pathway towards competing internationally at official IBSA events. Belgium has been part of the emerging countries programme since September 2013.
Tony Larkin was impressed with the skills of the local players: “Belgium has some players with great potential. The coaches, players and organisers are all ready to take blind football in Belgium on to international level, and I really enjoyed working with everyone involved.”
Nicole Bardaxoglou from the Ligue Handisport Francophone was delighted with the weekend: “It’s been very interesting from many viewpoints. Tony has helped our players to develop all the skills they need to improve, and we have learnt a lot of things we can now put into practise in our weekly training sessions. Tony knows how to work with all kinds of players, and especially young players, to develop their skills and confidence. The two teams have gathered and worked together this weekend, and this is vital in our efforts to set up a national team.”
The players themselves took a lot from the sessions. According to Christoff, who plays in defence for Cécifoot Anderlecht, “We enjoyed the weekend very much. We’ve learnt a lot and we’ll improve as a result. I hope we can train a lot more after these sessions, and we need to work more on our hearing skills so that we know where everyone is during the game. My dream is to play in England some time in the future.”
There are plans to organise an international tournament in April of this year, and Belgium could play its first full international match as soon as this summer.
to view a photo gallery of pictures from the weekend.
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For more information on the IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe contact firstname.lastname@example.org