Eight European teams are competing in Loano, Italy, this month for the honour of being crowned International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) European champions in the B1 – totally blind – category. UEFA has backed the IBSA and its development programme with the objective of increasing opportunities for blind players ever since IBSA was handed the UEFA Monaco Charity Award in August 2006.
The ninth IBSA European Blind Football Championships (B1) are organised by FISPIC, the Italian Federation of Paralympic Sports for the Visually Impaired. Hosts Italy, reigning champions France, six-times winners Spain, Germany, Russia, England, Greece and Turkey are in northern Italy for the event, which runs until 22 June. All matches will be held on the artificial grass pitches at the Ellena sports complex in Loano.
The league stage of the competition takes place between 15 and 17 June, with the semi-finals following on 19 June. Play-off matches for final placings will be played on 21 and 22 June, and the final staged on Saturday 22 June at 18.00CET.
UEFA has supported blind and partially sighted footballers on the highest platforms. For example, ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-final between Germany and Greece in Gdansk last summer, a five-a-side game for blind and partially sighted players was arranged as one of the showcase matches under the Respect Inclusion project.
With an agreed set of rules, the first IBSA European Championships were hosted in Barcelona, Spain, in 1997. Since then, official IBSA regional and world championships have been contested regularly, and international friendly tournaments such as the IBSA Cup are fixtures on the blind futsal calendar.
IBSA has two types of football – B1 for footballers who are completely blind, and B2/B3 for players who are partially sighted. B1 football has become one of the biggest sports on the Paralympic Games programme following its debut at the 2004 Games in Athens. This was emphasised recently at London 2012 where the number of participating teams rose from six to eight.
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