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The Bilbies, Australia’s men’s blind football team, have announced their squad for the all-important Asia-Pacific Championships, which will serve as a qualifier for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

The nine-player squad will hold two camps at Paralympics Australia’s headquarters at The Hangar in Melbourne, in October and just before the tournament starts in Kochi, India on November 9. It will be Australia’s first time contesting the Asia-Pacific Championships, which are also a qualifier for the 2023 IBSA World Blind Football Championships in England.

Bilbies coach Igor Negrao said he believed the team had the potential to surprise some of the more fancied nations in Kochi, while team member Amir Abdi, of South Melbourne FC, said: “The future for the sport in Australia is exciting and we will be training hard to achieve a good result in India.”

Blind football, formerly known as football 5-a-side, has been on the Paralympic program since Athens 2004, but Australia has never qualified. Brazil has won all five gold medals since the sport’s introduction. At Tokyo 2020, Brazil beat Argentina in the final 1-0.

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The Paralympic edition of blind football is played by two teams of five B1 classified athletes on a pitch measuring 40 metres x 20 metres with side kickboards. A ball with a sound device inside it is used and players wear eye shades. The goalkeeper can be fully or partially sighted. Each team has a guide behind the opposition’s goal to direct the players when to shoot. A game lasts for two 25 minute halves.

The Bilbies squad: Amir Abdi, Brendan Spencer, Nathan Letts, Isaiah Muller, Nizamuddin Azimi, Shahram Jazan, Christine Casey, Nathan Meneses, Simon Briffa Staff: Igor Negrao (Coach), Pete Nowakowski (Assistant Coach), Ankit Singh (Team Manager), Bess Hepworth (Goal Guide), Stephen Murray (Assistant Coach)

*Australian Blind Football would like to thank Blind Sports Australia, Paralympics Australia, the PFA’s Footballers Trust, Multicultural Australia and Macron for their support in getting the squad to India. The team is searching for sponsors to reduce the cost for individuals to travel to the championships. Please contact Blind Sports Australia for enquiries. 

By: Blind Sports Australia and Paralympics Australia
Posted: 17 August 2022