While waiting for Paris 2024, the French blind football continues to evolve in Tokyo

A success on the pitch, but a defeat behind the scenes. During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the French blind football team – football played by the blind and visually impaired – left the banks of the Thames adorned with silver, failing in the final against Brazil, world reference in the discipline. . The meeting was also broadcast live on television, a first in the history of French Paralympic sport.

Corn “The post-London era was a disaster. We have never been able to capitalize on it ”, deplores the former sports director Julien Zéléla (1998-2018), who introduced the discipline in France in 1987. Federal disagreements pushed the trainer Toussaint Akpweh towards the exit. The departure of the latter, also in charge of the Bordeaux club, led to the withdrawal of all Bordeaux internationals, including that of Frédéric Villeroux, one of the very best in the world: “There have been ego wars, and it was the players who paid the price. No one spoke to me about performance anymore ”, develops the 38-year-old.

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The start of a series of disappointing results, with a non-participation in the Rio 2016 Games and a place of red lantern at the World Cup in 2018, year of the return of Toussaint Akpweh at the head of the Blues. “There was a tension after London which caused me to be sidelined. They came back to get me, because I was right. I am in a projection of social innovation ”, advance the current coach, whose formation faces for its entry in the running the Japan, Sunday, August 28 in Tokyo.

Focus on youth to prepare the next generation

A sporting disagreement that does not hide the basic problem, that of a lack of means for a discipline which has nearly 450 licensees. The budgets allocated by the disabled sports federation have stagnated since 2017, even if a slight increase is to be noted in this Paralympic year. Charly Simo, the current sports director, supports:

“We rely on private partnerships. We have no sponsor or logo on our jerseys to fund our academies. “

In view of Paris 2024, eleven academies must be created to educate the youngest about the practice of blind football. Two are already operational, in Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est, while the Bordeaux school is due to open in September. Learning places for blind and visually impaired children aged 8 to 16.

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