Blind soccer kicking off in Ottawa

Blind soccer is kicking off in Ottawa, and it's making a lot of noise.

Players rely on sound, not sight, to follow the ball

Organizers with Ottawa Blind Soccer are trying to recruit enough local players to start a competitive club. (Kim Valliere/Radio-Canada)

Blind soccer is kicking off in Ottawa, and it's making a lot of noise.

The sport, which has been specially modified for players who can't see, relies instead on sound. The ball, which is less bouncy than a regular soccer ball, sounds like a tambourine so the players can track its movement, and the 40-by-20-metre pitch is surrounded by boards to keep it in play.

To make sure the players can hear the ball, verbal communication during play is restricted: players are only allowed to say the word "voy" to avoid collisions as they move around the field; goalies, the only players with sight, are allowed to communicate with the fullbacks; the coach may speak to the midfielders from the sidelines; and a guide stands behind the opposing net to help the strikers hit the target.

Fans are also asked to keep quiet — until a goal is scored. Then they're free to go nuts like soccer fans anywhere.

Vangelis Mikias lost his sight as a child and has been playing blind soccer for most of his life. (Kim Valliere/Radio-Canada )

'Free and liberating'

"Learning how to move, to run, to play, to be free, that's a very important benefit, and it extends beyond soccer. It builds your self-confidence, but in addition to all that, it's a lot of fun," said Vangelis Mikias, who lost his sight as a child​.

Mikias likens the sport to dancing.

"It provides an opportunity for blind people to make free and liberating moves," he said. 

Ottawa Fury players try their luck at blind soccer

4 years ago
Duration 0:44
Ottawa Fury player Eddie Edward wears a blindfold as he tries to kick the ball around during a blind soccer clinic at TD Place. Player Vangelis Mikias, who lost his sight as a child, says it's a lot like dancing.

The sport's local association, Ottawa Blind Soccer, recently held a clinic at TD Place with Ottawa Fury FC in an effort to attract more people to the game. Sighted participants wore blindfolds to try to get a sense of what blind players experience.

"So if we can do that more and more, that would be awesome," said coach Jeffrey Holmes.

Holmes said he's already heard from U.S. teams that want to play exhibition games against an Ottawa squad.

Players will begin preparing this fall for the Ontario Parasport Games in February. Their ultimate goal is to form a national body and gain accreditation to eventually play in the Paralympic Games and Parapan American Games. 

Ottawa Blind Soccer coach Jeffrey Holmes encourages anyone interested in the sport to give it a try. (Kim Valliere/Radio-Canada )

With files from Radio-Canada's Kim Valliere


Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.