Carl Perks takes a look at a sport for the blind which debuted in Montreal
Welcome to the world of the blind, where the one-eyed man is a cheater and must sit in the penalty box, for this is goalball.
First internationally recognised in Montreal at the 1976 Summer Paralympics, goalball, a sport by German creators, was designed for blind athletes and began as rehabilitation training for visually impaired World War II veterans. Now regulated by the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA), the game has grown to be one of the more popular attractions at Paralympic events.
A match consists of two 10-minute halves in which two teams of three players tend three goals in an 18×9 metre court and attempt to throw a belt riddled ball into the opponent’s nets.
To permit partially sighted players to play this initially all-blind game, rules have changed to force all players to wear blindfolds covered with two eye patches. No blindfold no Goalball. Ninety seconds before the beginning of every game half, referees must verify the effectiveness and position of all the players’ and their substitutes’ blindfolds and eye patches. If a player suffers a penalty, he must go sit in the penalty box and must remain blindfolded and eye patched.
Most of the penalties in this sport are handed out because players touch their eye patches.
The court is made very safe for the sightless athletes: the goals are heavily padded and their horizontal post is at chest height so that players can hold on to it to guide themselves through their edge of the court. Also, a careful eye will notice that the ball is not only made out of heavy rubber but does not bounce. This is to keep the ball from rebounding straight into players’ faces. Despite being very thick, the ball is strewn with holes to permit the bells to audibly ring through the gymnasium in which the game is played.
There are 10 referees/judges attending every normal match and 12 for championships. There are World Competitions every four years since 1978. Popularity in the game is ever-growing.
Goalball enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that effective January 1st 2011, games will consist of two 12 minute halves elongating the game to a full 24 minutes of play.
If you are interested in participating, the Association Sportive des Aveugles du Quebec (ASAQ) are looking for voluntary workers.