Blind Football: “Colombia will be in Paris 2024 playing for the gold medal”
Date: December 2, 2023
Category: Blind football
The men’s Blind Football national team of Colombia lost the final in the Para PanAmerican Games – Santiago 2023 for Brazil, but their qualification to Paris 2024 was secured.
This is the first time that the Colombian squad has gotten a slot in the Paralympic Games, and for that matter, Juan David Pérez was the spokesperson for the amazing feeling of the entire team.
“It is an indescribable feeling and a tremendous joy for Colombia to have its Blind Football team for the first time in the Paralympic Games! Now we have to prepare very well these nine months ahead of us to show in Paris what we are made of. With the support of all the Colombian people, it will be much easier to achieve our main goal, which is to get the gold medal. We want not only to be in the final but to be Paralympic champions!”
Colombia won a silver medal in Santiago 2023 and fourth place in the World Championships at the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, UK. So, what does Colombia need to do differently to achieve its ambitious goal of being the Paralympic champion?
“We must have more training sessions together. With this qualification, we will have more support and can have more training camps to prepare as we have to and for the athletes to get to know each other. I believe that with these conditions, we will get to Paris 2024 in the best shape ever and with all the tactical lessons we need to succeed.”
Juan David, 27, plays in the Valle del Cauca in Colombia but also in APAVEDI in Paraíba, in the Brazilian league. He was born and still lives in Piedecuesta, but studies in Bucaramanga, the capital of the province of Santander, Colombia. He is in the last semester of Social Work, job he has already had for seven years, which consists of giving food to people in need and giving classes to disabled people to improve their skills and teach them how to adapt their day-to-day lives to their disabilities and learn to be as independent as possible.
“I am most honoured to serve my country this way, and especially my city. I value the most equality among people, and that is my main goal: that everybody, regarding their skills and realities, should be self-sufficient in every way.”
Juan David is also the proud father of a four-year-old girl named Sara Lucia Pérez. “The light of my eyes,” he replied.
He lost his sight at the age of 12, and before that, he was already a regular football player. Blind Football came into his life when he was 16.
“By that time, a friend of mine showed me a Blind Football ball that was making sounds when played, but I didn’t know how to play it. I met the Santander head coach, Fernando Carrillo, who is now our national head coach, and with him started the whole process of adaptation to Blind Football”.
Was the transition difficult? “In six months, I was the regional champion, and then I was called to the national team in 2013, and I haven’t stopped since then. Actually, it was very easy for me to adapt to Blind Football. Some of the plays that I do, I had in regular football. The hard part was controlling the ball because in regular football we use only one foot to do it, sometimes with the external part of the foot, and now we need to use both feet to control it, always with the internal part of the foot. But I must say that for me, it was an easy transition.”
Last but not least, a message to the world about Blind Football.
“The only thing that we ask for is more opportunities to show Blind Football to the world. It is as beautiful as the regular one. Check out how a blind athlete can control the ball so well in a speed play and pass to his teammates. We can run and make extraordinary goals for goalkeepers who don’t have visual problems. For me, this is something that gets me very emotional. People, and especially sponsors, need to understand that we are also high-performance sportsmen and deserve their support. This is important not only for those who are already playing Blind Football but also for all of the blind children that may want to follow this path and get mobility and the independence they are looking for”.