Tue. Jan 21st, 2020

Playing soccer with the blind team

Antonio Martín is 37 years old, although everyone still calls him
the child

–As a child I was the little one , and then I stayed like the child.

–And he doesn't care?

-When they call me by my name, it sounds weird …

The child The nickname on the shirt looks. Child, it reads behind him, although his adversaries cannot read it.

Neither the others nor himself.

Everyone is blind.

The child,
We will always call him that, he had lost his vision as a child, after medical negligence. The doctor had become confused when he prescribed a medicine. The child I had sinusitis. The medicine had damaged his optic nerve.

The creature was four years old.

That day the light went out, not the spirit. The child He was determined to be a footballer.

– Since I was little, I was always hitting the ball. He was playing like all the kids, breaking figurines. As I was blind, I kept giving it. I entered the ONCE at age twelve. I graduated in Business in 2007. Now I sell coupons, but when I finish my career as a footballer I will look for ways to take advantage of my studies.

Antonio Martín, 'el Niño', one of the best soccer players in the world

Antonio Martín, 'el Niño', one of the best soccer players in the world
(Emilia Gutierrez)

The child account all this with the Andalusian accent and a smile, used as it is to interviews. It is a star of futsal for the blind. One of the best players in the world.

We are at the headquarters of ONCE, in Madrid.

CaixaBank, the Spanish Federation of Sports for the Blind and the Spanish Paralympic Committee They have offered us the opportunity to try an experience: practice indoor soccer with the selection of the blind. The meeting is part of the program para Twenty for Twenty ’: CaixaBank has considered twenty challenges for the twenty months from the signing of the project to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0fpoCYCc_8 (/ embed) data-youtube-vid>

–We are in challenge number 12. We want to show that this futsal team invests as many hours of training as Mireia Belmonte, Rafael Nadal or Ana Peleteiro – says Alfredo Bustillo, director of the sponsorship area of ​​CaixaBank.

Now they have given us a t-shirt and a mask and placed us in the center of the ONCE futsal field.

Let's see what it feels like when playing in the dark.


When we put on the mask, the ball disappears.

Now the ear guides us. Inside the ball, rattles resonate. The bells tell us where the ball is. We do not know where we are in the countryside. On the right, on the left, in the attack or in the defense.

You have to tune your ear.

Glued to the foot

The player is guided by the voices of the assistants and the jingle bells of the ball: it must be carried close to the foot

The members of the Spanish team – Yousef, Julio, Cantero, who is a psychologist … – all blind, ask for silence. If the viewer voices, no one clarifies.

The exercise begins. Voices arrive from everywhere. To organize, the instructors divide the field into three parts.

In the defensive zone sends the voice of the goalkeeper, unique without disability in the field.

– Well, they say: they say that we are the only ones who look good – jokes Pedro Gutierrez, goalkeeper of the national team.

–It's that sometimes the doorman messes up and he seems to see nothing –he says the child.

In the third of the field sends the coach's voice.

Two blind players of the Spanish team, on the football field of ONCE, in Madrid

Two blind players of the Spanish team, on the football field of ONCE, in Madrid
(Emilia Gutierrez)

When we reach the attack zone, the guide voices, which has been placed behind the rival goal. Today, the guide is Miguel Ángel Becerra.

–Twelve meters! – Becerra shouts.

When we are twelve meters from the goal, we must continue to guide the ball.

– Eight meters!

Eight meters from the rival goal, we can shoot.

"Eight meters," the guide told me. And I shot him in the air.

–You have left it behind. Go back two steps to your right – the position corrects me.

I step back two steps.

-More to the right!

There will be the ball, now I distinguish the rattle.


Shooting. The ball is loose, soft as a gum, and deflected. It is lost by the corner of the corner.

"Not like that …" Becerra tells me. You must wear it attached to the foot.

I take my mask off and watch the others, the professionals.

Occasionally, the referee whistles a foul. Salta Cantero, the psychologist, with black humor:

'The child'

Antonio Martín, ‘the boy’, was the top scorer in the recent Europeans of the discipline in Rome

– But has anyone seen anything? I have not seen the fault!

Now comes Yousef. It seems to carry a magnet in the boot. Yousef lives in TarragonaHe trains daily, is completely blind, was an athlete and is now an important player in the national team. Take the ball sewn to the boot while crossing the field diagonally. Becerra vocea:

– Yousef continues, advances, advances more …! Eight meters!

Yousef arms his right hand and the ball is shot at goal.

The goalkeeper has no disability.

The doorman doesn't even see her.

The ball enters clean, level, attached to the right post.

– They are good, right? –The guide tells me.

In September, in Rome, the team was proclaimed European football champion 5. With that, they go eight continental titles. The latter has given them the pass to Tokyo 2020. The child He was top scorer of the tournament: he signed six.

The mechanics of the match, on the legs of the chronicler: he shoots the ball

The mechanics of the match, on the legs of the chronicler: he shoots the ball
(Emilia Gutierrez)

After a while we stopped the game and tried the penalties. Jesús Bargueiras, the coach, tells me what to do:

–Don't take a run. Put a hand on the ball. Shoot the ball. Wait for the guide's order.

With a key, the guide hits a pole. He says:

– Here is the right stick!

And later:

–And here, the left one!

Someone whispers behind me, far away.

-Silence! –Voke the players of the national team.


As before, the ball comes out at medium height, very soft.

– It is not easy right? –The coach tells me.

Jesús Bargueiras tells me that the team practices long concentrations. At the end of the year, there are 96 days of training away from home, morning and afternoon:

‘Twenty to twenty’

CaixaBank has considered twenty challenges, one for each month until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

–We take you to the limit. Some get stressed because they spend too much time outside. But when the title arrives, the effort compensates them. In reality, the difficult thing is to prepare them for defeat, something nobody does. Defeat is normal: only one wins. Although they adapt to everything. They were born with blindness or were overcome by disability, and that has been done to build a normal life, with their partners, their jobs and their illusions.

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