A Swedish first for blind football
Date: August 14, 2020
The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Football Committee has announced that Stockholm will host its first international blind football or Football 5-a-side tournament, the Euro Challenge Cup.
Originally schedule for June 2021, the competition will now take place from 6-10 July 2022.
The tournament is a development event aimed at new countries and offering them the opportunity to take their first steps in international blind football competitions. It is a key part of the UEFA-backed IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe.
Hosted by Parasport Sweden, the Euro Challenge Cup is the first of its kind in Scandinavia and a unique opportunity for players, coaches and referees to learn more about blind football. Tournament games will be complemented by referee education and a shared technical training for players.
The tournament will also mark Sweden’s international debut, with the country expected to field a mixed squad of women and men.
Maja Reichard, Swedish player, said on the announcement: “For us this is a chance to take the next step together. We can build a Swedish national team and help the sport of Football 5-a-side to grow in a fun and inspiring way.”
Previous Euro Challenge Cups have been held in Prague (2014), Thessaloniki (2016) and Krakow (2018), and several countries from the European continent are expected to make their international debuts at Stockholm 2021.
Swedish blind football kicked off in 2014 with local club Mälarhöjdens IK. Since then, the game has grown thanks to support from the Swedish Sports Confederation, foundations including the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Allmänna Arvsfonden) and Gålöstiftelsen, and local organisations Parasport Stockholm, SRF Stockholm and Gotland and the Stockholm Municipality.
Since the beginning, IBSA has also supported the game’s development through its European development project, including by holding a training weekend and donating equipment.
Speaking on the original announcement made in August 2020, Ulrich Pfisterer, chair of the IBSA Football Committee, said: “The Euro Challenge Cup 2021 in Sweden is the most important tournament for emerging countries in Europe to participate in. Many countries have used this opportunity as a steppingstone to consolidating blind football in their country. This is the very first time we are able to run such tournament in Scandinavia, thanks to our engaged, enthusiastic Swedish hosts.”
“The IBSA Football Committee appreciates the continued support from UEFA to run the Euro Challenge Cup and deliver our development work in the continent. Thanks to UEFA and our IBSA Blind Football Development Project Europe, there are blind football programmes in forty countries in Europe now and the game continues to grow.”
“I am sure the 2021 Euro Challenge Cup will be a great success despite the known challenges we will face in these special times.”
Public health recommendations will determine the exact details, with six countries expected to attend and all participants invited to take part also in a cultural programme featuring frog dancing and other Swedish Midsummer traditions.
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Caption: UEFA #EqualGame-Respect logo.