Thinley Namgay 

Phub Tshering from Wangdue hasn’t played football for the past 11 years. The 27-year-old quit monkhood and sports in 2010 after becoming visually impaired.

However, his love for the sport was reignited recently when Bhutan Paralympic Committee (BPC) and the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) invited him for a blind football game in Thimphu last week. Phub Tshering joined 21 others including five women.

Blind football is a game designed for players who are visually impaired. It is currently a Paralympic sport under the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), which also organises a world championship.

IBSA was founded in 1981. IBSA’s first congress was held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Spain is considered the pioneer of blind football, having played the sport since the 1920s.

According to BPC’s official,  blind football is also called- ‘football 5-A side’ as it involves five players from each team. The size of the blind football ground is usually like a futsal or basketball ground.

In the game, players will clap to receive the ball pass, and some will make noise. A ball makes a gentle rattling sound when in motion.

Internationally, a blind football match consists of two halves of 20 or 25 minutes, with a 10 minutes break for half-time. Except for the goalie, all players have to be blindfolded while playing.

Phub Tshering, who works at the Kuenpel Entertainment of Visually Impaired in Thimphu, said that the game was exciting. 

“I was thrilled to play football after a decade. I felt light after the game. I travel most of the time in the vehicle and lack physical exercise,” he said.

“I am optimistic about the game. We can do it. Even if we can’t feature on the world stage, it will help us stay fit,” said Phub Tshering.

For the event, International Blind Football Foundation donated eye masks and balls.

BPC coach, Penjore Gyeltshen, said that blind football would act as a recreational game for the enthusiasts. “BPC and BFF are trying to advocate people on this game. The game was also introduced at Khaling, Trashigang.”

However, Penjore Gyeltshen said Bhutan has a long way to participate in the international blind football competitions.

He said if players are really interested, the game would become popular and able to participate in the international platforms. “In other countries, blind football is prevalent, and players earn their livelihood through this game.”

According to Penjore Gyeltshen, other para-sports such as goalball, air rifle shooting, disable football, and swimming would be introduced in the future.

Rinchen Penjor, 27, a graduate of Sherubtse College, said he enjoyed the game. “After the game, I have discussed with my friends to at least play once a week.”

Edited by Tshering Palden