PUNE: A team of 10 visually impaired women aged between 18 and 25 years from Mai Balbhavan, an NGO at Dehu Road, won a gold medal at the women’s national blind Football Federation.
Six team members have been selected .. in the national team and will represent the country in the Blind Football Asian Championships to be hosted in Kochi, Kerala from November 9-20 this year.
Deepali Kamble (25) said, “Three years ago, I did not like playing football as I was not confident if I would be able to play. Our coach encouraged me to keep at it as I had the right height and weight for it. With regular practice my confidence level increased and I started enjoying the sport.
Komal Gaikwad (23) said, “After winning the national tournament my family recognised my potential for football. My relatives were not aware that visually challenged persons can play football and how the game is modified for us. My family is very happy and supportive. Even during my vacation .. I play for 2-3 hours a day.”
The player of the tournament, Bhagyashree Rugi (22), said, “ . “I was always interested in running and playing athletics. When I played football for the first time, it became my favourite sport. Our coach skilled us like sighted footballe . that can be adapted and used in our playing styles. Now that we have been selected to represent India against teams, we will have to practice more than before.”
Goalkeepers Harsha Sandeep, Vedangi Gandle and Sarika Shantaram from the NGO have also been selected.
Ruchira Deshpande, president of Mai Balbhavan said that the players wake up at 3am. They practice from 4am to 6am and and then go for gym training from 11am to 2pm. Vikram Singh coach of the team sets various tactics and gameplay sessions for improving their game every day.
“These women come from different parts of Maharashtra. Some have played different sports before. Three years ago, we introduced the to blind football and got a special sound-enabled ball imported and a coach onboard. We also ensure they eat a proper diet fit for athletes,” she said.