Blind World Championship gets underway on 14 August.
England v Spain
IBSA Blind World Football Championship
3pm, Saturday 14 August 2010
The Royal National College for the Blind
Hereford is bracing itself for a global invasion when the fifth IBSA Blind World Football Championship kicks off on Saturday 14 August with England v Spain at the Royal National College for the Blind.
It’s a tough opener for Tony Larkin’s England side having lost to the Spanish at the Paralympics in 2008 but the hosts can breathe a little easier having drawn South Korea, Japan and Columbia in Group A while the big three of Argentina, Brazil and China will be joined by European Champions, France, and Greece in Group B.
“Our aim is to get through the group and reach the semi-finals at the very least,” said Tony Larkin from the RNCB’s purpose built blind football facility, thePoint4, which will host the tournament.
“We’re confident we can do that but we realise it’s a very strong tournament especially with the heavyweight nations in Group B. Argentina are world champions while Brazil have two Paralympic titles and China are ranked number two in the world.”
The game is played in a 5-a-side format with sighted goalkeepers to help with on pitch communication between players while the Futsal style ball contains ball-bearings to help the blindfolded players locate its position on the pitch.
Larkin is hopeful that England can improve on their world ranking of fifth after an excellent outing at the European Championship last year: “To finish as runners up to France was a great achievement but they did just enough to beat us 3-2 on the day.
“The squad has really developed since the Paralympics in Beijing where we finished fifth and were beaten by Spain, Brazil and China.
“Spain will be a big test on Saturday though. We’ve beaten them in friendlies but they probably hold the edge when it comes to international competitions against us.”
The England boss believes that England’s mixed fortunes at Beijing and the Euros in France over the last couple of years will hold them in good stead for Hereford 2010: “Regardless of results, playing regularly at big international tournaments is fantastic for player development. It really highlights what is required at this level in terms of training and preparation and what’s needed to compete against the big teams like Brazil and Argentina.”
And Larkin will be hoping that star striker and skipper, Dave Clarke, can improve on his sparkling record of 108 goals in 111 appearances for England: “Everyone knows about Dave Clarke in Blind Football as he’s one of the world’s best players at this level and has been on the international scene for over 15 years.
“Dave’s a massive influence on this squad as he’s been to seven European Championships, five World Championships and a Paralympics in Beijing. He’s got something like three Golden Boot Awards at the Euros as well so there’s no-one with more experience in Blind Football then him.
“But we’re very pleased with how the squad is progressing. Jonathan Gribbin has shown his goal-scoring talent in the lead up to this tournament while Keryn Seal is developing on the international stage as well so we’re very confident ahead of Saturday’s opening game.”
Day tickets for the World Championship in Hereford are priced at £5 and £2 - Log onto the official Blind 2010 website at http://www.blind2010.com/spectators for more information.
Meet England’s World Championship squad