Goalball is an inclusive sport that is specifically designed to be played by both visually-impaired and fully-sighted athletes alike, on the same playing field. Though at Paralympic level all goalball players are visually impaired, international teams below this level comprise both visually-impaired and fully-sighted athletes alike. Like our Fair Play programme, goalball has inclusion at its heart. 

One of our former ICS volunteers is a goalball player. As someone with a visual impairment, she understands on a very personal level the importance of breaking down people's assumptions about disability. “Goalball is great at promoting inclusivity. Every team member is blindfolded, which means any inequality surrounding players' levels of vision is instantly removed. This is pretty unique for competitive sports. It promotes awareness of what people with visual impairment, and disabilities in general, can do.”

"Every team member is blindfolded, which means any inequality surrounding players' levels of vision is instantly removed. This is pretty unique for competitive sports."
Laura Tambin, Fair Play steering group member 

In goalball, all competing players are blindfolded, reducing all players' sight to the same level. Teams take it in turns to throw a bell-laden ball towards the opposition's goal, which the opposing team tries to block using their full body. The team with the most goals wins. As they are blindfolded, players rely on teamwork and their own hearing to enable them to block the ball from going into their own net.  

Goalball players at the Fair Play launch event

Goalball is not just a competitive sport. It allows fully-sighted participants to experience reduced vision within a sporting environment. It provides a community space for people with and without disabilities to interact and socialise. it enables communities to appreciate similarities and better understand differences. At a grassroots level, that is the starting block for inclusion.  

Rene Dah, our Ghana Country Director, believes in the power of goalball to unite rural communities in northern Ghana. He says, “Goalball is inclusive and accessible, and the equipment can be easily made using local materials available within the community. This means it’s a sport that anyone can play. A goalball match is a platform where players and community members can learn more about disability in general, and visual impairment in particular.” 

"All the necessary equipment can be easily made using local materials available within the community."
Rene Dah, Ghana Country Director, International Service

Earlier this year, we ran the pilot for Fair Play, with two groups of British and Ghanaian ICS volunteers, half of whom were visually impaired, using goalball as a vehicle to engage communities about disability. As a result of his placement with us in Ghana, one of our Team Leaders, Gary, decided it was a field he specifically wanted to work in. He is now the Volunteer Coordinator for a leading visual impairment charity in the North West of England, and is launching his own goalball team with another volunteer from the project. We spoke to him about how children and young people in the communities engaged with the sport during his placement.

ICS volunteer equipping regional goalball tournament competitors with eyeshades

“It’s a very active sport, and it was impressive how many young people wanted to play it out there. We could have kept the tournaments going all day and had to make another pitch just for youngsters! Some kids would watch us running the training sessions or tournaments, and then they’d be putting their shirts over their eyes and throwing a ball to each other - how cool is that?! Watching people playing with blindfolds definitely made people consider what it would be like to have a visual impairment.” 

"Watching people playing with blindfolds definitely made people consider what it would be like to have a visual impairment.” 
Gary Marshall, Fair Play Team Leader

In the future, Fair Play will not only use goalball. We’re already planning to expand the programme to different countries, using sports that, like goalball, provide a level platform for disabled and non-disabled athletes to compete together and engage community members in promoting accessibility and inclusion.  

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