South Melbourne launches Blind Football team

As part of today’s celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, South Melbourne FC is proud to launch an ambitious partnership with Australian Blind Football.

There are two versions of the game of blind football. Blind football (B1 or 5 a side football) is played by athletes who are totally blind. Vision impaired futsal (partially sighted futsal) is played by athletes who are vision impaired. Blind Football (B1) is an internationally recognised sport played at the Asian Championships and the Paralympics.

Creating a new all abilities opportunity in the form of a Blind Football team is an exciting expansion of the South Melbourne football program as we move into 2021. The partnership with the club will provide a home-base in Melbourne at Lakeside Stadium with regular training sessions and open public come-and-try events to grow the game. Australian Blind Football is building a network of clubs around the country with the aim of having a competitive league established in the coming years. As the only club in Victoria, South Melbourne will be at the forefront of this initiative as we support the development of our players. Our blind footballers will represent Victoria at national competitions and participate in National training Camps as they strive to cement their position in the national team.

Former Senior Men’s player and Theo Marmaras Medal winner for Player of the season in 2009, Sebastian Petrovich is now involved as a volunteer and referee for Blind Football in Victoria. Sebastian told smfc.com.au “We are very grateful for the partnership with South Melbourne. The club has been very welcoming and it’s going to be an amazing time for the future advertising of the sport and building pathways into the future for the blind football team.”

Current senior players Marcus Schroen and Matthew Loutrakis took time away from a pre-seaon training session to spend time with the new team. Donning blind folds and being put through a number of drills they gained an appreciation of this style of football. Talking to the players also gave them an insight into the importance communication. Marcus Schroen shared his thoughts saying “it was an incredibly humbling and amazing experience to play football as they do. It’s inspiring to see what they do and they are courageous to get out there and have a go. South Melbourne is very much a community club with so many things we do in the community that people don’t know about. Our supporters will be familiar with the Senior Men and Women, but it’s also about our junior boys and girls, the Mini Roos, our Powerchair team and now our blind footballers. We also have links with local schools providing coaching and development programs and broader things such as our relationship with the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the Victoria Police Soccer Club.”

Shae Skinner, one of the club’s new team members told smfc.com.au about her journey in the game saying “I have been playing football for about five or six years. As part of the Australian team we travelled to Kochi in India in 2018 for our first international competition against the Indian Blind Football team. I was also selected to travel to Japan in 20129 with an invitation from the International Blind Sports Federation female to take part in an all-female blind football international training camp. I am looking forward to representing South Melbourne and playing for the club, as well as more opportunities to play for Australia and travel overseas”

Amir Abdi, team member and Captain of the Australian national Blind Football team has today been appointed by Football Victoria as their Blind Football Project Coordinator. In the part-time role, Amir will work closely with Football Victoria’s Inclusion team, providing valuable input to develop programs that provide greater access for blind or partially sighted Victorians.

South Melbourne President Nicholas Miakousis told smfc.com.au “I’m really proud of the work done by our club together with Dave Connolly from Australian Blind Football to get this program up and running. At South Melbourne we have always advocated for aspirational football where any player or club has the potential to reach the top of the game both here in Australia and Internationally. The establishment of the blind football team is another aspect of aspirational football helping people achieve the best they can. I am looking forward to seeing South Melbourne FC players represent not only the club and Victoria but also Australia at major international sporting events like the Paralympics.”

The South Melbourne Blind Football team will be based at Lakeside Stadium and host regular free come-and-try sessions for the community commencing in early 2021.