"Go forward a little, two more steps to the left!" Under the direction of the instructor's voice, a man wearing an eye mask pursues a football ball, which emits a sound.
The event, called "Off Time," aims at polishing players' communication skills by having them perform as blind football players.
The event was held at the Shinjuku NPO Collaboration Promotion Center late last month.
The Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA) in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, launched the event in February with the aim of helping people learn how to communicate from another person's viewpoint.
Participants experience football in pairs, with one acting as an instructor and the other wearing an eye mask.
Ten people, including company employees and students, participated in the event. This reporter also wore an eye mask and tried to play football, but the darkness felt so overwhelming I was scared to move first step. Participants had difficulty even forming a line, and it was trying for them to move only with verbal instructions. Some moved in the opposite direction to where the ball was, while others moved past it.
However, the pairs establish a rhythm the longer they worked together. When a player successfully received the ball by moving as instructed by his partner, the spectators cheered and applauded. More applause and smiles came when another pair successfully passed the ball.
As the event progressed, a sense of trust seemed to grow among the participants.
"If you lose your eyesight, common words like 'that, this' and 'there' become meaningless," said one of the participants, Megumi Tominaga, 24, a company employee from Sagamihara.
"I keenly felt how much I depend on my eyes in my daily life," she added as she wiped sweat from her