After a dramatic and action-packed week in the Argentine capital, the organisers of the IBSA Blind Futsal World Championship have finally found a moment to relax. However, rather than congratulate themselves on a job well done, the game's top officials have already begun analysing the lessons of a memorable November in Buenos Aires with the future of the discipline in mind.
Among those present at the stadium is IBSA vice president Serafin Lizoain. A native of Pamplona, Spain, the 41-year-old is also blind, and thus highly qualified to explain the benefits of this sport to the visually impaired community.
"This has been an exemplary tournament, and most of the credit for its organisation must go to FADEC (the Argentinian Federation of Sports for the Blind)," Lizoain told FIFA.com. "We haven't had a single problem, either sporting or organisational. The atmosphere where the squads have been staying has been very harmonious, while the standard of play has been highly competitive. Everything has gone exactly as we'd hoped," he added.
Suddenly, our conversation is interrupted by the sound of cheering in the stands, as a portion of the 2,500 Argentine fans set to pack the National Centre for Sporting Excellence (CENARD) prepare to watch their heroes take on Brazil in the final of the prestigious tournament. For Serafin, who cuts a dash in his impeccable suit, the atmosphere is truly impressive. "It's because football is the king of sports here in Argentina. It's interesting to note that some of the best football in the world is played here, and that some of the best blind footballers also come from here. It's incredible how much support the 'Bats' have here."
'A subliminal message'
Above and beyond the sporting spectacle, football for the blind is about the never-ending commitment of its players, as Lizoain explains. "The subliminal message is that blind people can also produce high-quality sport that is not just for entertainment, but also useful as a tool for integration. That's what's it's aiming for."
In essence, I'd like to highlight the quality (of the play) and how important sport is to the blind. It means a lot to all disabled people, as it does to everyone, but it's especially important to the blind. Football gives us many opportunities to interact with each other, and also to develop orientation and movement skills. It has so many advantages," says the Spaniard who, in spite of the recently competed tournament, is already planning his next steps.
"As champions, Argentina are guaranteed a place at the Beijing Paralympics. At the same time, however, we cannot lose sight of the other international events in the coming months, such as the tournament in Brazil, which comes under the framework of the IBSA World Championships. So there's not much time to relax," he says with a smile. Though the finals of the next World Championship will not be until 2010, Lizoain says that "although it seems a long way off, work has already begun".
One thing is guaranteed: if it is anything like this year's spectacle in Buenos Aires, then it sure to be another resounding success.