Goalball appeared on the sport arena in 1946, but it was only included at the Paralympic games in Toronto in 1976. What is this sport about, and how can discussing the history of this game help students grasp issues around inclusion in the present?
Author: Ralitsa Angelova, FMH Contributor.
In this article:
Ukraine women’s goalball team. May 2015 (Photo: WikiCommons).
Who can play goalball?
Not all people with visual disabilities can participate. There are certain conditions that should be met. To qualify to play goalball one needs to have a certain category of visual impairment. There are four categories: B1, B2, B3 and B4. And only those who are categorized with B1, B2 and B3 severity can play goalball professionally. The line between B3 and B4 is blurred, and people who get a B4 severity cannot play professional goalball. Karina Lang, who was playing professional goalball, was supposed to play at the Paralympics but was barred from playing because she was categorized with a B4 visual impairment. She could have a new check in two years, but this does not change the situation.
Far less people watch the Paralympics compared to the Olympic games. Paralympic and Olympic athletes receive less media attention in their own countries. How does the difference in recognition impact the sport?
A few days after the Paralympics, on 12 September 2021, Hristiyan Stoyanov from Bulgaria lamented the deplorable situation of the Bulgarian Paralympic athletes. The silver medallist wrote:
I was never thinking about sport as a means to earn money. I have never competed with the thought that I will win something. Sport is emotion, sport is freedom, sport is above everything else in my life, and at this moment when I stop to perceive it in this way – that means that my place is no longer in sports […] But on the path to the heights I have encountered many times injustice, when I met dishonest people, and when Paralympic athletes were neglected and discriminated. […]
After a conversation with the ministry of sport and youth we were again denied a change in the funding of the Paralympians. Funding for Olympic training is about three times less for Paralympians than for Olympians.
Plea for Inclusion
Every four years, an opportunity arises to draw attention to inclusion. Recently, at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics games Andrew Parsons proclaimed that
The Paralympic Games are for sure a platform for change. But only every four years is not enough. It is up to each and every one of us to play our part, every day, to make for a more inclusive society in our countries, in our cities, in our communities… Difference is a strength, not a weakness and as we build back better, the post-pandemic world must feature societies where opportunities exist for all.
Paralympians! You gave your all to be here. Blood, sweat and tears. Now is your moment to show the world your skill, your strength, your determination. If the world has ever labelled you, now is your time to be relabelled: champion, hero, friend, colleague, role model, or just human. You are the best of humanity and the only ones who can decide who and what you are.
Your performances could change the fortunes of your lives. But most importantly they will change the lives of 1.2 billion forever. This is the power of sport, to transform lives and communities. Change starts with sport. And from tomorrow on, Paralympic athletes start once again to change to world.
Despite the role of the Paralympics to create social cohesion and inclusion, this goal seems far away. The Paralympic athletes are different from the ordinary athletes. Not only because they have a disability but also because the public perceives them differently. There is not just difference in the performance because we are unable to measure the difficulty of their performances since they perform under different circumstances, but media coverage is also rather limited.
History teachers and educators can ask meaningful questions to their students. What could be done to increase public appreciation of the Paralympics? What is the role of financial instruments? What could the world of football do to stimulate goalball?
Find out more
You can read more about the Paralympic athletes’ struggle for equality.
You can read here about the evolution of the Paralympic games.
You can read here about Olympic and Paralympic prize inequalities.
As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, the team of Football Makes History will provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.
Today in 1895, a football game was played as women were claiming equality in a patriarchal society.
Researchers of the Sport and Nation Programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam conducted an analysis on 4.761 footballers, derived from the fifteen national teams that competed in at least ten editions of the World Cup between 1930 and 2018, which comprises of 301 foreign-born football players.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
A class of high school history students in Oslo was asked to create an ideal starting XI line-up based on Human Rights. Find out why and how it went.
A loving fan and musician put together his two passions and created this compilation of tunes from the Jazz Age.
Prayer days on stadiums, faith rooms and inclusive chants: here is how English football is adapting to a changing world.
Engage young people through Football Makes History’s own Guidebook and Toolkit for promoting social inclusion in formal education or Non-formal settings
Telling the history of a city through football stories: a celebration of Amsterdam.