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Keon Richardson is an internationally recognised sociologist with a particular research interest in the accumulation of different forms of capital through sport participation for marginalised youth. He recently completed his Master of Art Degree in Sport and Olympic Studies at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Keon has a growing body of peer-reviewed journal articles, co-writing “Community sport development events, social capital and social mobility: a case study of Premier League Kicks and young black and minoritized ethnic males in England” and is the sole author of “The Blind can also Play Football: Factors Influencing Blind Football Participation among Zimbabwean-High School Students with Visual Impairments”. He is also a UEFA B Futsal Licenced Coach and has evolved the game of blind football in Southern Africa, pioneering the game in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana as well as mobilising adapted equipment for blind football teams and special schools for the blind in Namibia, Madagascar, Malawi, Lesotho, and Mozambique.
“We can play Football with or without our eyes”: Promoting Lifelong Engagement in Blind Football for People with Visual Impairments in Zimbabwe
For people with visual impairments, committed lifelong engagement in sport provides key socialization experiences, autonomy to move independently without a cane or a sighted guide, and even
opportunities to compete internationally. Despite these bene ts, there is a lack of empirical evidence on the underlying factors for people with visual impairments from the Global South to regularly participate in sport.
This study examines the impact of a national blind football project, developed by the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee (ZNPC), in producing and leveraging sporting capital for people with visual impairments in Zimbabwe to engage in blind football as lifelong participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with (10) male and (10) female participants in addition to trained teachers from eight provinces to analyze the sporting capital developed through the project, alongside the barriers faced by the participants in mobilizing their sporting capital. Findings from the interviews were used to produce a 10-point ‘sporting capital index’ for the participants.
The interviewed participants had moderate to high levels of sporting capital, with the majority of the male participants scoring higher sporting capital indexes than the female participants. Sporting capital was predominantly accumulated through weekly blind football training sessions in educational institutions and local communities, coupled with competitive experience in Athletics and Goalball. Players with high levels of sporting capital became assistant blind football coaches or were recruited by the ZNPC to assist with facilitating coaching clinics in different provinces. Barriers such as: audible balls punctured by thorns; lack of support from trained teachers; and availability of teammates decreased both the quality and quantity of training sessions, and in some cases created a long hiatus without training. However, the participants interviewed were motivated to regularly participate because of the multifarious bene ts they derived from blind football and the potential to earn a living from the sport.