Australian Blind Football: 2018 International Tour’s report

In September 2018, our national blind football and vision impaired futsal teams went overseas for their first international tours. Below is a report on the international tours of both teams:

Team photo before Game 2

Group photo with India team after Game 2

Our national blind football team travelled to Kochi, India from 17 to 22 September. This tour was supported by the India Blind Football Federation. The team took part in a two match international friendly series and joint training sessions with the players and staff.

The first game took place on Wednesday 19 September and even though India won 2-0, the team performed superbly, holding the India team at bay in the second half and even had a couple of chances of their own. With this being the first ever game for most of the players, it was a great effort.

“It was an amazing experience. The first Australian Blind Football (B1) team competing at an international level has been a few years in the making and it was an emotional time for everyone after the match,” said Australian Blind Football Coordinator (and goal guide for the games) Dave Connolly.

The second game took place on Friday 21 September and following a week of training and games the team put in another great effort, with the India team showing how they are progressing and came away with a 5-0 win. The team were just a finger-tip away from scoring their first ever goal with captain for the tournament, Brendan Spencer, being denied by a marvellous save from the Indian keeper midway through the first half with Australia only down 2-0. India's superior game experience meant they were able to put away chances with Australian keeper Nathan Meneses producing a number of fantastic saves. Nathan was named player of the match award for his performance in the second game.

“We learnt so much during this trip, from preparation to recovery, working on game plans and adjusting to new conditions – it was extremely humid in Kochi! As we became more accustomed to the conditions and worked hard during the training sessions, we improved as the week went on. I personally learnt alot from this trip and it has given me motivation to train hard to prepare for the next challenge of our first ranking tournament in 2019 at the Asian Championships,” said Brendan.

We must thank the India Blind Football Federation and all of its volunteers and partners for running a fantastic series.

The team that competed in this first international series was Nathan Meneses (Goalkeeeper), Brendan Spencer (Captain), Nathan Letts, Andrew Close, Shae Skinner, Igor Negrao (Coach), Dave Connolly (Goal guide) and Simon Kaplun (Team Manager and Physio).

Vision Impaired Futsal 
Team photo before Game 1

Group photo with Malaysia after Game 3

Our national vision impaired futsal team travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 23 to 28 September to take part in a three-match series with the Malaysian vision impaired futsal team.

The team had three games scheduled against Malaysia, all of which turned out to be vastly different. Game one saw Australia participate in their first international game and it became a fact-finding mission about the opposition and themselves. Malaysia won 7-5.

In our second game the team began with a different structure to accommodate skills in different positions and levels of sight. The team started confidently, but conceded two early goals before creating some opportunities through some solid defensive work from Steffan Nero and Scott Dann turning defence into attack and not only drawing level before half-time but going into the break up 4-2. Unfortunately with the humidity and heat the team was beginning to struggle and consequently allowed the Malaysian’s their opportunity to bring the game back to 4-4 all. The team found their poise and vigour again to take the lead in the last couple of minutes, taking out an historic win 6-5.

The team was ready to put everything on the line for the final and deciding game. Once again the team started slowly, conceding two easy goals, and another just before half-time, making the task of a comeback near impossible. The second half saw the team create numerous chances with little luck, whilst our defence became extremely hard to penetrate with Simon Briffa defying all his ailments from the two previous games to be able to throw his body at everything directed at goal. With no team being able to score another goal in the second half the game finished with Malaysia winning 3-0.

“It was an honour to captain this team in our inaugural international competition,” said Captain Nick Haydardedeoglu.

“It was a great experience for the team, taking part in their first international tour. The team performed well, learnt a lot and we are looking forward to developing this group further and competing in more international games in the future,” said Coach Michael Roski.

Our goal scorers for the tournament were Oscar Stubbs (5), Ethan (2), Steve Obeid (2), Sean Brown (1) and Nick Haydardedeoglu (1).

The day after the final match saw a joint training session with the Malaysian team and coaching staff, this was a great way to wrap up a wonderful trip. Making connections off the field is as important as the results on the field. We thank Malaysian Blind Football and all their volunteers for organising the event.

The team that competed in this first international series was Simon Briffa (Goalkeeper), Nick Haydardedeoglu (Captain), Steve Obeid (Vice-Captain), Steffan Nero, Sean Brown, Johnny Boland, Scott Dann, Ned Brewer-Maiga, Ethan Scaturchio, Oscar Stubbs, Dion Kalogiros, Michael Roski, Stephanie Taylor and Igor Negrao (Coaches), Vince Scaturchio (Team Manager).

We would like to take the time to thank a few important people:

Matt Clayton, Stephen Barnes, Sam Theodore and the Board at Blind Sports Australia for their support in getting this national program off the ground.

Luke Casserly and the team at Football Federation Australia, in particular Kevin Black who provided the training and playing uniforms for both teams, which was important for the team. We look forward to growing this relationship in the coming years.

Tim Matthews and the Australian Paralympic Committee for their support, in particular for providing the venue at the first national camp held in Melbourne in May.

All donors from our funding page through Australian Sports Foundation – without your generous support we wouldn’t have been able to provide the opportunities we did in 2018.

The Australian Sports Foundation’s Sport4Everyone grant program for providing funds for us to commence work in rolling out monthly training centres in 2019.

Partner organisations across the country, in particular state blind sport organisations and state football federations.

Our amazing coaches, staff and volunteers – our achievements in 2018 would not have been possible without your enthusiasm and commitment.

And last but not least, to the players. You have shown great commitment, character and professionalism in all that you have achieved in 2018. Make sure you take a moment to recognise what you have achieved both for yourself and for the sport of blind and vision impaired football in 2018.

The future is bright for the game in Australia and we look forward to continuing this work in 2019 and beyond, continuing to grow the game of blind and vision impaired football in Australia.