Quiet please, this is goalball

Goalball is a sport that catered specifically for the blind. This year, Singapore is sending its first Goalball team ever to compete at the ASEAN Para Games.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Unlike most other sports, those watching goalball have to be quiet.

Should the crowd get too noisy, the referee can even stop the match.

This is because the players are listening out for the ball, which has a pair of bells in it.

Goalball is the only team sport designed for blind players, according to national coach Hansen Bay.

To be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, it is one of the 15 sports on show at the 8th ASEAN Para Games which kick off today.

Singapore is hosting the Games for the first time, and this is also the first time the hosts are sending a national goalball team.

Bay has set two targets for his team - to have 80 per cent of their shots on target and to maintain good spirits throughout the Games.

"I also hope that the younger blind students can be inspired to do sports, just like in other countries," he said, pointing out that Thailand and Malaysia both have been active in the sport for more than 10 years.

Goalball involves two teams of three players. Points are scored when players throw a ball past their opponents into a netted goal spanning the width of the court.

Since there are various kinds of visual disabilities, each player is required to wear eyeshades that totally cover the eyes in the interest of fairness.

There is even strategy involved, according to Bay.

Players can pass the ball to each other and make unexpected throws to catch their opponents off-guard.

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This makes it quite the active sport, which he says is good for those with visual disabilities.

He said: "Many blind people have undeveloped motor skills, because they do not get moving. Physical literacy for the blind is sorely lacking."

Goalball is more than just a sport for the national players.

Norliana Md Ajam, 32, used to be active in silat, but stopped 14 years ago after losing most of her vision due to an eye inflammation condition.

When she heard about goalball earlier this year, she jumped at the chance to play another sport.

Said Norliana: "The sport is so much fun and I'm glad to be part of something bigger than myself."

Men's captain Marc Chiang, 35, contracted a degenerative eye disease four years ago and was forced to stop playing football and basketball.

Six months ago, he discovered goalball and it reignited his passion not just for sport, but for life as well.

"I enjoy being out there on court, sweating it out with my teammates," he said.

The Singapore team may be making their debut at the Games, but quite clearly, they are an eager bunch who just want to play the sport.


This article was first published on December 3, 2015.
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