“I believe LA 2028 will be the first Paralympic Games to have Women’s Blind Football”
Date: October 20, 2023
Category: Blind football
Exactly two months ago, the women’s Blind Football national team of Argentina won the first world title during the 2023 IBSA World Games in Birmingham, UK.
One historic moment for the sport, but even more special to the South American squad that closed the cycle that led to the conquer.
Nothing was ever like before Birmingham, and the team knew exactly that when they returned to Argentina two days later. The national head coach, Gonzalo Abbas, remembered the unforgettable moment — a memory of a lifetime.
“We already had a huge surprise when we got back to Buenos Aires. There were a lot of people in the airport waiting for us. We didn’t expect anything like it! Nevertheless, me and some other players travelled to Mendonza, our city, and there was an amazing crowd screaming and shouting for us — absolutely unbelievable!”
Mr. Abbas was, a few years ago, goalkeeper of the men’s blind football national team of Argentina, and even then, there was no record of something like what happened in late August. “The fans were really crazy! A lot of posters, the joy, the pride in the girls, I had never felt anything like that, so I can’t even imagine what the players felt themselves. Beautiful! Wonderful and well deserved, I may say”, added the world champion coach.
But that was just the beginning of something even more beautiful. “In the following days, all of us were invited to go to every television and radio programme to talk about our achievement, and interviews in newspapers. From the lowest south in Tierra del Fuego to the peak in the north, in the province of Jujuy” he said, mentioning exactly the same place where the team got its first training camp after the world title.
“I got a phone call from the women’s national coach of the regular football team from Argentina congratulating me for the win!”, recalls Gonzalo Abbas. “We have been working for this moment for quite some time, but five years ago, this was only a dream. The first IBSA Women’s Blind Football World Championship in the IBSA World Games was a fantastic breakthrough in our sport. The story of the sport will be told in a different way from this moment on”.
… And the practice goes “boom”!
Gonzalo Abbas is thrilled for what the world title put in motion in his country. Blind Football is now starting to get the attention of the people of Argentina, which is expected to significantly increase the number of players throughout the South American country who are already enthusiastic about football.
“We currently have 60 players, divided into five teams, that play in the national championship. For what I realised in this national tour of interviews, a lot of provinces want to develop their own teams, fed by their own dream of reaching the Murcielagas (Bat Girls’ team, as it is known, like the men’s national team of blind football, also world champions), and defend this title. Argentina was already in a very high development stage as far as women’s blind football is concerned, but I am pretty sure that this conquer will boost our recruitment base. Actually, I think this first edition of the Women’s World Championship will speed up other countries participation”.
For Gonzalo Abbas, the next natural step is the Paralympic Games, and the goal on the short horizon is something that the world champion coach strongly believes in. Not only for a question of faith but also presents arguments to defend it. The undisputable one is a question of equal gender justice.
“I do believe that LA 2028 will be the first Paralympic Games to have Women’s Blind Football. For sure, there is one sport before Birmingham and a completely different one after. Check out the quality of the football played by women and rewatch the competition on the IBSA YouTube channel. There were fantastic matches, very well played, with emotion, great goals, and wonderful saves. They already deserve to be at the Paralympic Games. Equal gender opportunities also demand it, which is a topic that means a lot to everybody, all over the world. Even to develop the sport in countries where financial difficulties are a huge obstacle. In some cases, if it is not in the Paralympic programme, some countries simply don’t help in the early stages, and this becomes a very complicated vicious circle in which the sport and the athletes are the only ones harmed.”
Anyway, there is something that nobody can take away from Gonzalo Abbas and the Bat Girls’ World Champions team, besides the title itself, of course. Something that only sport can give, regardless of the place or country where everybody’s from.
“The environment at the World Games enchanted me, something we also felt in previous competitions around the world. The friendship, the good relations we have with everybody, and the constant learning process with every single team, player, coach, and staff we meet. In the final against Japan, in the end, they were no longer our opponents and shared our happiness with us. No matter what happens, we are always united for the development of the sport. And what makes this feeling so special is that it is at a high performance level without hurting the true spirit of sport”.