The players abide by strict rules, the same ones that are used at the Paralympics
. [Editor’s Note: Goalball was invented in 1946, and is today played in many countries around the world. However, it is a very new sport in Tunisia; its players do not yet participate in international competitions.] Because some players are partially blind and others are completely blind, they all have to wear dark goggles. That way they’re all at the same level.
The game is played in two 12-minutes sets, with a 3-minute break in the middle. Each team has three players, and each person plays both offence and defence. When they’re on the offence, they have to throw the ball with their hands; they’re not allowed to use their feet. When they’re on defence, they can use their whole bodies to block the ball. The ball, which is made out of rubber, contains bells inside so that they can hear where it is. Complete silence is required during the game. The team who scores the most goals wins!
“They travel for competitions, and get to meet other blind people from throughout Tunisia”
Ennour, the local nonprofit that offers sports classes for handicapped people, has only existed since 2012. But the goalball athletes told me it’s changed a lot for them. There’s not a lot to do for blind people in Kebili. Many just sit in their houses. With goalball, however, not only are they exercising and socialising, they’re also travelling to other cities for competitions and meeting other blind people from throughout Tunisia.
It’s not without its challenges, of course. The organisation – which trains blind people in running and bocce ball - is operated entirely by volunteers. It has very little funding. Players pitch in to buy uniforms and pay their own travel expenses. Games are never held in Kebili, as they don’t have good facilities there; most games are held in Monastir, nearly 400 kilometres away.
As you can see in the video, they built their goal out of wood; they would like to buy a real one, so that they can better prepare for competitions. They only have one ball to practice with, and would like a few more. The organization has repeatedly asked for a bit of financial help from various authorities, but nobody seems to care. Even in Kebili, few people know about the team, but I’m hoping my video will change all that.