Germany's newest sport -- soccer for blind and visually impaired players -- kicks off this weekend with a tournament. The organizer told DW-WORLD.DE how the game works and why he wants it to take off it Germany.
The balls are equipped with rattles so the players can hear where it's headed
The tournament on March 29-30 in Berlin and Stuttgart marks the start of the first season for Germany's brand new Blind Soccer League. Manuel Neukirchner is the director of the Sepp Herberger Foundation, a co-sponsor of the project. The foundation was originally created in 1976 to advance the social and socio-political role of soccer in Germany.
DW-WORLD.DE: The German Blind Soccer Leagues opens its first season with a tournament. Tell us a bit about it.
Manuel Neukirchner: Blind soccer is completely new in Germany. It's more or less a pilot project.
But blind soccer is an established sport in 21 countries and our goal, together with our partners, is to establish the sport here in Germany. An organized tournament is very important for this, and we've planned one on March 29 and 30 in Stuttgart and Berlin with eight teams. We hope that this will help launch this very exciting sport.
Does blind soccer have the same rules as soccer for seeing players?
Herberger was the national coach from 1938-1942 and again from 1950-1964
Of course blind soccer differs from soccer for seeing people. The teams are smaller -- there are four players on the field and one goalie. Much of the game functions via acoustic signals. The ball is designed with rattles inside of it. The players kick by ear, you could say.
Guides stand along the outer boundaries; these are people that guide the blind and visually impaired players and warn them if a collision is about to occur. They control the game from the outside. The goalies also help guide their fellow players on the field.
[ Editor's note: The four field players are generally fully blind, while the goalie is visually impaired.]
Your foundation is a co-sponsor of the tournament. What does it hope to achieve?
The Sepp Herberger Foundation, which was founded 30 years ago, is the oldest soccer foundation in Germany. Former national trainer Sepp Herberger initiated it together with the German Soccer Association.
Sepp Herberger's wish was always to use the integrative power of soccer for the good of the society. And that's what we want to achieve with this project as well -- to better integrate blind and visually impaired people into society.
Soccer is an element that joins people together, especially for people with impairments and handicaps.