Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA’s new project offering a small sided, non- contact version of blind football launched on Saturday with positive feedback from players and parents.
The B1 Project holds regular football sessions for blind and visually impaired people of all ages that take place between March and July at Tapton Secondary School in Sheffield.
The sessions are delivered by FA qualified coaches from the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme.
Julie Callaghan, Disability and Inclusion Football Development Officer at Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA, said: “Parents loved it and when the participants got here they all said how they’ve been waiting for this all week.
“They were all so happy to play football and all wanted to know when the next session is.”
The football sessions take place in a fully accessible environment and aim to boost the participants’ confidence, getting them familiar with the ball, moving it around and getting a blindfold on them.
The FA programme has 19 centres across the country and is linked to Talent ID giving blind footballers a chance to play the game, showcase their skills and potentially go on to represent England teams in the future.
Ms Callaghan, said: “I think this is massive, but one of the parents came with her son and said that he has never joined in with any activities before and that they can’t believe he had a ball at his feet.”
For the participants the idea of moving without a guide, with a blindfold on and physical contact happening without warning can be very daunting.
Annette Parker, Activities and Groups coordinator for The Sheffield Royal Society For The Blind, said: “There is a natural apprehension and fear of falling to start with, but once a person adapts this soon becomes secondary to the emotions and sensations of being in the game.”
Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA has formed a partnership with Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Royal Society for The Blind, Yorkshire Sport, the FA and Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme to deliver the football sessions.
Ms Parker, said: “Genuine praise, encouragement and challenge make a real difference in VI sport, especially where people have been given the impression that they cannot participate.
“That is one reason why we support the B1 project – we want people to enjoy playing but have an open pathway to develop themselves if that is suitable for them.”