30/08/2021

Spotlight On... Blind Football

Paralympic football

It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them!  

Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport – the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.  

In the next part of the series, we spoke to England blind footballer Owen Bainbridge. 

He shared his love for the sport as well as the journey he’s been on to get to the top. 

Tell us about how you got into blind football and your progression to where you are today. 

"I lost my sight totally all of a sudden when I was seven, and I’d always loved and been interested in football. 

"I discovered that you could play with a rattling football and I had knockabouts with my friends and my dad. 

"I always wanted to be part of a team and I never took it seriously as I wasn’t able to play with people that were the same as me. 

"When I was 16 I went away to a blind college in Worcester and, in my third year there, one of my friends went for a pint with someone he knew at the University of Worcester. Funnily enough he’d been asking my friend whether he knew anyone who would be interested in playing blind football. 

"It was like a dream come true – I had a few training sessions over a few weeks with University of Worcester’s team and then they asked me to come and play in a league. 

"It was accidental really how it happened! Then in 2010 I got a phone call off the then England manager, he asked me to come down to two friendlies against Germany where I won my first cap. 

"I then went to the Royal National College For The Blind in Hereford and studied massage, and at the same time I was playing football all the time. That was when my real journey started. 

"I’ve been to two World Games and we got to the semi-final in 2011 and then the final the time after, a World Grand Prix final in 2019 and five European Championships since, and we got to the semi-finals in 2015 and 2019." 

Why football over other sports?  

"I’ve had some big injuries, I’ve done my cruciate ligament and I was out for 18 months. 

"The fact that you fight to come back and do your rehab properly is because you love it so much.  

"There’s something about the sport and playing in a team which has a grip on me. 

"I’ve never had a buzz to take it further with any other sport, but I’m fully dedicated to football and it holds something inside of me." 

What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport?  

"I wish I’d got into blind football earlier. 

"The drive at grassroots level now is so big and I get a real buzz from the opportunities that people are getting. 

"I had a lot to learn when I came in. Even footballing movements, if I’d known about it earlier I could have prepared for it." 

What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far? 

"I remember a night game in 2015, a group game, and we were playing against Turkey in front of a big crowd. 

"A night game has its own aura and it was 1-1. One of my mates scored a few minutes before the end and honestly I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. 

"The noise washed over us and it was an amazing feeling, I can still relive it really easily." 

What's the best thing about blind football?  

"It’s being part of a team, having the opportunity to play football against people like myself, and getting to play for my country – there’s no bigger honour. 

"I still get the same buzz now when I’m in the dressing room before the game as when I started against Germany in 2010. 

"It’s just fantastic to be part of something." 

What’s something only a blind footballer would know or appreciate? 

"When you play blind football, it’s multi-directional and your senses have got to be switched on. 

"When you play, you’ve got to tune into a lot of things. You’ve got to listen to the ball and find out where it is, I need to know where my coach is on the halfway line, where my goalkeeper is, where my coach is behind the goal, where the rest of my teammates are, which way I’m facing and where all the opposition are and what they’re doing. 

"It’s mentally draining but it is such a useful transferable skill that blind football helps improve.

"It’s so good for mobility skills, learning how to listen and what sounds to listen to – all of that under a lot of physical fatigue. Any blind footballer would know what that mental drain is like." 

What would you say to someone considering trying blind football?  

"It’s such a fantastic sport. 

"You get to play football, you’re learning skills whilst having fun and those skills are transferrable. 

"Also, you’re not holding onto something or someone or using a cane, you’re independent, you’re free." 

 

Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.

Want to give blind football a try? Check out our club finder!