No eye in team: England’s blind footballers in World Cup semi-final


At last … England football fans are celebrating after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup – for the BLIND.

The national team cruised into the last four at the World Blind Football Championships in Hereford, Worcs., by beating Columbia 1-0 on Thursday night.

Tomorrow they face a nerve-wracking showdown with Brazil for a place in the final.

Blind football is played five-a-side and players locate the ball by listening to small metal bearings placed inside it.

England blind football coach John Ball said ”team spirit” and ”hard work” have helped them reach the semi finals.

He said: ”The Columbia game was our best performance in the tournament and we have got steadily better as the competition has progressed.

”It has set us up for a fantastic semi-final against Brazil. They are the paralympics champions but we are quietly confident about giving them a good game.

”The players are very excited and they know that they are only two games away from lifting the trophy.

”I can’t comment on what went wrong for England in South Africa but we have got to where we are by hard work in training and a great team spirit.

”We have achieved far better than people expected and all the players are very proud.”

Blind football is played five-a-side on a 42m by 22m pitch, which has 5m by 3m goals and sideboards to prevent the ball from leaving play.

The game is split into two 25 minute halves and players find the ball by listening to several metal bearings inside and the instructions of their coaches.

Players must wear protective eye masks to ensure partially blind players do not ‘cheat’, and some wear additional foam protection on their heads in case of falls.

The World Blind Football Championship, which takes place every four years, is currently being held at the Royal National College for the Blind’s base in Hereford.

Over 1,000 fans watched England’s quarter final victory on Thursday night, but they are asked not to cheer because they will drown out the sound of the ball.

England star Jonathan ‘Gribbo’ Gribbin scored the decisive goal following a defensive mix-up by the Columbians.

The squad includes goalkeepers Dan James, 23, and Lewis Skyers, 26, and captain Dave Clarke, 39.

The outfield players are Simon Hill, 24, Will Norman, 31, Keryn Seal, 28, Robin Williams, 22, Dan English, 19, Jonathan Heenan, 21, and Jonathan Gribbin, 34.

In the other semi final China will meet Spain while reigning World Champions Argentina, who hosted the tournament in 2006, will compete with Japan in the 7th place play off.


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