Blind football players in Colombia use sounds to go for goal

World Today

At most sporting events, fans are encouraged to cheer as loudly as possible for their team. But one football league requires the opposite — the Colombia football team for the blind.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

These blind football players are not helped by boisterous spectators shouting out their names. They need silence.

“This sport is played with a ball that makes sounds,” Luis Alejandro Castaneda, the son of the league’s founder said. “It’s also different because we use the word “go” to identify whether the person is a competitor or a teammate.”

The five players are required to yell “go”, or something similar, when moving for the ball. Their visual impairment is no deterrent when it comes to running and trying to score a goal.

“You don’t just play with your feet — you need to use your mind,” Luis Antonio Castaneda, founder of the Football League for the Visually Impaired, said. “Because your feet can be full of football talent, but you can have an empty brain.”

Castañeda Sr. was seven years old when an accident left him blind. But that didn’t stop him from achieving lifetime goals.

Castañeda, 59, is a lawyer, a football player and a coach. He is also the father of four. All of his children participate in the visually impaired football league — either as goalkeepers or guides- the only sighted participants in the game.

Youngest son Luis Alejandro, proudly explains how his father went from playing football with cans and boxes as a child, to then making one of Colombia’s first rattling footballs.

“One day he came in contact with a rubber football, and he decided to make a hole in it and put in bells, so when it moves, you can hear it,” he said. “He then took that idea to the Colombian Institute for the Blind.”

Blind Football has been a Paralympic sport since 1996. In Colombia, visually impaired football leagues have been around since the late 1990s.

The Cundinamarca visually impaired league was founded by Castañeda in 1998. The team has represented Colombia in international competitions… most recently in the annual Blind Football Cup played in the Czech Republic.

“This is my passion, it is my life, it is everything to me,” Luis Antonio said. “When I go out on the field I forget about everything: my wife, my children, my problems, everything!”