Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Text size

Page Colour

Blind Football: Jefinho seeks a hand full of Paralympic titles in Paris 2024

Date: March 13, 2024

Category: Blind football

It has been 18 years since Jefinho, 34, one of the most experienced Brazilian players in Blind Football, debuted at international competitions. Destiny chose Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, to host the 2006 IBSA Blind Football World Championship.

“The worst part of that milestone is that we lost 1-0 in the final against our eternal rivals!” said Jefinho.

Two years later, in Beijing 2008, Brazil confirmed another Paralympic title, becoming the only team ever to achieve the gold medal at the biggest global sporting event.

With so many years in Blind Football, Jefinho is one of the few people who can talk with property about the evolution of Blind Football until today.

“We even talk among players that Blind Football has evolved a lot in the past 15 years. When I started, it already had its own dynamics, but the players had their positions very well defined. Forward was a forward; defenders got to defend, and we didn’t get out of that area, maximising our own characteristics. There was a lot of space between players and lines and even a few tactical schemes. The goalkeeper always puts the ball in the attack area for the strikers to score a goal. With time, things got way better, and today it is something completely different. Way more moves, a lot of different tactical schemes, and the use of the pivot player, which we didn’t use at all. Even in terms of defensive tactics, like the one used by Argentina, which is very difficult to overcome.”

Astonishing China in Beijing 2008

Quickly, the evolution spread all over the world. Jefinho pointed out the example of China, which carefully and secretly prepared for their home Paralympic Games and showed up in Beijing with something new.

“It was their first great competition in history, and they came with fast Blind Football, more focused on conducting the ball through the field of play in a spectacular way. I consider that they have the best ball conduction in the world! Very fast, unbelievable. In a way, they forced everybody to adapt the best way we could and let other countries, like Iran, rise in Blind Football. Or even Morocco, lately.”

#Accessibility – Jefinho is conducting the ball alone on the field of play in the macth agains Colombia (7-1) of the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, UK. The official jersey is yellow with blue shorts and socks.

This is why Jefinho told IBSA that Brazil took very hard work to keep up with the latest trends in the sport and never lose supremacy, naming the person responsible for that matter.

“Our national head coach, Fábio Vasconcelos, is a true visionary. He has a lot of ideas, bringing himself a lot of new things to improve our sport. He took his experience as a futsal player – he is also a former goalkeeper for the Brazilian Blind Football team – to Blind Football, and we learned a lot from it.”

With such a changing sport throughout these years, how has Jefinho managed to adapt and evolve to stay the single player as he still is today? Jefinho was considered the best blind football player in the world in 2010.

“[Laughs] We get to suffer a bit with all these changes, even more for a striker. Every striker loves to play with the ball next to his foot, but we need to adapt very fast to the way football is being played. At a certain point, he started to practice more on defence to get back to defence after an attack play that didn’t work very well. Something that Fábio calls ‘the return’! It is very important to help the team recover from a potential ball loss and counterattack.

Blind players vs regular goalkeeper

For the less familiar with Blind Football, one of the things that can cause some confusion is that the goalkeeper is a normal-vision person. How can they manage to score goals – and sometimes what goals are scored! – anyway?

“I think that is, probably, the most frequent question that I hear from people who get in touch with our sport for the first time! The job of goalkeepers is not that easy. The area where they are confined is very small, and that cuts most of the space to act. They need to wait for the right moment to make any defence moves, and that makes their job very difficult. Anyway, strikers also practice a lot the shots on goals.”

Besides the quality of the football on their feet, blind football players also have the help of the guide behind the goal that they are trying to score at.

“The guide role is also very important. We need to have total concentration on their voice to hear the right instructions that they are giving us. Blind Football is very demanding in terms of our concentration. We must clearly hear the ball, our teammates, the opponents, the guide, and even the coach from the bench. Everything at the same time, while the crowd is pushing for us on the stands. We need the public to be quiet, but we kind of understand the noise they are making. They are cheering for us! In a certain way, the guide is our eyes on the field of play, and their call to action is very important for us.”

Five-times Paralympic champion quest

Jefinho already has four Paralympic titles in his amazing curriculum. Beijing 2008; London 2012; Rio 2016; and Tokyo 2020. The Brazilian star is looking for the fifth one, so he may leave Paris 2024 with his hand way up, showing the five fingers to everyone. Which was the most special one until now?

“Sorry about the cliché, but everyone was special. Everyone has different things that turn them into something special in their lives. In Beijing, for example, we were losing the match, and 30 seconds before the final whistle, we scored. In London, we needed to go to shot-out penalties in the semifinal against Argentina, and in the final against France, we suffered a lot of goals. In Rio, we scored only one goal against Iran in the final, and that was the only goal Iran suffered throughout the entire competition. Can you imagine that? In Tokyo, we had to face rain in the semifinals and in the final, which got in the way of our football. All the victories were met with all our souls on the field of play. Ok, I have to say that Rio at home, with thousands of fans always following us everywhere, was very special. It was an amazing moment that I will never forget.”

Nevertheless, this was a shorter Paralympic period due to COVID, which dragged Tokyo 2020 to 2021. In the middle, Brazil lost another World Championship to Argentina at the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, UK, and the America Cup. They won the last edition of the Para PanAmerican Games – Santiago 2023, and for that reason, Jefinho believes that Brazil will be strong as usual in Paris 2024.

“We are working every day for it! In the morning, in the afternoon, and sometimes on Saturdays too. We are delivering our full dedication to being in Paris in the best shape possible. As athletes, we always want more. In Brazil, we don’t stand that much with what we achieved in the past. We look forward to future titles, and we want Brazil to remain the only Paralympic champion in the world. We won’t give up our hegemony that easily!”

Photo credit: Renan Cacioli/CBDV

Related Articles