The Indian women’s blind football team scripted history when they beat Austria in their first match in the eight-team IBSA World Games that got under way at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom on Monday.
Akshara Rana, the 12-year-old striker from Uttarakhand, probably the youngest in the Games, fired in the winner in the eighth minute of the second half in the Group B match thus setting her own personal milestone. This was the first time any Indian women’s football team was competing at the world stage, and the occasion was made memorable with the victory. The game kicked off at Indian time 7 p.m.
Sunil J. Mathew, the sporting director of the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) and head coach of the women’s team, had heralded Akshara before the team departed for the Games stating that her name would be heard a lot in the days to come. She had lived up to that faith by scoring the winner in her maiden match on the world stage.
Blind football is played with five players a side with the goalkeeper alone being the sighted the player. The rest of the field players have different degrees of visibility but play completely blind nevertheless with their eyes covered with eye patches and eye mask over them.
India will take on Latin American champions Argentina in the second game on Wednesday followed by the European champions Germany in the last group game on Friday. The final will be played on August 21.
India has fielded a young team with an average age of 18 years. The 10-member team has players from Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, and Kerala. Aparna E., a resident of Malappuram, is the sole Malayali in the team. She was one of the two goalkeepers in the team.
While two of the eight field players were completely blind, the remaining six suffered from blindness in excess of 40%.
The team eyes a podium finish since that alone will bring the game the recognition of Paralympic India along with the much-needed funding.
Source : The Hindu