The members of the Solidarité Aveugle (Blind Solidarity) project have been rewarded for their perseverance. The Eagles will fly to Spain to represent Mali at the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships.
Visually impaired footballers from all parts of Africa donned their blindfolds and battled it out at the recently held IBSA Blind Football African Championships. Among them were the Eagles of Mali, all members of the Solidarité Aveugle (Blind Solidarity) project run by the French Libre Vue association, who set the tone with a 12-0 victory over Cape Verde in their opening match. “We went with the aim of bringing the cup home and qualifying for the 2018 World Championships,” said Mali forward Bandiougou Traoré.
Qualifying is one thing, but the opportunity to play is another. The Mali team’s participation in the second edition of the IBSA Blind Football African Championships in Cape Verde was no foregone conclusion. And Mali is not alone. Sending a team to an event like this is expensive and, without the support of the relevant authorities, often more than small associations can afford. Financial difficulties prevented Ivory Coast from taking part, for example. Fortunately, however, thanks to the efforts of the Libre Vue association, it was a different story for the Eagles. Having already secured funding from the UEFA Foundation for Children, Libre Vue also set up a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund their participation.
Blind football, an effective tool for social integration
The battle was not in vain, as the Mali team’s determined approach saw them finish in an impressive second place and thus qualify for the IBSA Blind Football World Championships to be played in Madrid from 5 to 18 June 2018.
The Blind Solidarity project gives visually impaired youngsters from Bamako an opportunity to discover blind football and its values, and to increase their self-confidence. A total of 150 young people aged between 7 and 25 participate in the project, which runs five training sessions each week. For Bandiougou Traoré, who has been playing blind football for five years, playing in such a competition is a dream come true. “It’s an honour, it’s something I’m really proud of!” he says. As well as requiring commitment, endurance and concentration, blind football helps to send out a strong message of integration and social cohesion by changing perceptions of disabled people. When they represent their country, blind footballers are not defined by their disability: they are players and nothing else.