Keon Richardson writes in the Sport and Olympic-Paralympic Studies Journal (SOPSJ).
Despite the exponential growth of blind football worldwide, research examining factors impacting participation in the Paralympic sport has been understudied. This exploratory study adopts the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model to identify the contextual factors which impact a group of Zimbabwean high-school students with visual impairments to participate in blind football. Semi-structured interviews were completed with twelve high-school students from eight out of ten provinces in Zimbabwe. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis to categorise the barriers and facilitators to participate in blind football. The analysis revealed the following five themes: 1) access; 2) socio-cultural context; 3) physical health and wellbeing/injury; 4) social relationships; and 5) intrapersonal and beliefs/attitudes. Students experienced participation in blind football as physically beneficial and personally transformative in (re-)constructing their identity. Barriers included fear of injury, lack of specialized blind football pitches, and awareness of blind football. To derive the benefits of blind football, students overcame the aforementioned barriers, many of which were reduced through ongoing participation and positive experiences. As a Paralympic sport amassing popularity amongst visually impaired children and adults, blind football appears to be an effective game to improve the physical health and social wellbeing of this population.
Keon Richardson is in the Master’s Programs in Sport and Olympic Studies and Physical Education, Health and Sport Sciences at Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan.