Goalball, the only Paralympic sport created for athletes who are either blind or have extremely limited eyesight, has won numerous followers among Hispanics.

Developed in 1946 to aid the rehabilitation of injured World War II veterans, the sport is open to the totally or partially blind, though the latter must use a mask that completely blocks their vision.

"The player who competes in goalball must be completely blind so that the competition is fair," Jose Jimenez, founder and director of the Organization for the Physically Impaired, or OPI, in Commerce, California, told Efe.

A team has three players on the court who throw and intercept a ball the size of a basketball that has bells on it to let them know where it is and which way it's going.

At each end of the court, roughly the size of a basketball court, is a goal 9 meters (30 feet) wide.

The players use their hands to throw the ball so it rolls on the floor, and can stop it with any part of their body.

The teams clash in two 12-minute halves. During the game the coach can ask for time-outs and make up to two substitutions.

"Goalball has helped me stay active, keep in shape physically and have a bunch of buddies," Oscar Quintero, a student of kinesiology and who took part this weekend in the X Locomotion International Goalball Tournament in Commerce, told Efe.

The event brought together some 150 athletes from teams based all around the United States, as well as Mexico's men's and women's national teams.

"This has been the tourney with the most teams taking part in the 10 years we've held it," Jimenez said about the tournament won by the Mexican national team among the women and the Sacramento Spitfire squad among the men.

Present at the inauguration were Mexican singer and actress Crystal with her husband Miguel Angel Huerta, president of the Mexican Federation of Blind and Visually Impaired Athletes, along with singer-songwriter Joao Pires.

The participation of OPI volunteers has been key to organizing the annual tournaments for 10 straight years.

"I came to the organization to do community service for a traffic violation," Gerardo Garcia, one of the people who dedicate their time to helping the organization, told Efe.

"I found out about OPI for the same reason as Gerardo - to do my time as a volunteer because of a traffic ticket," Ismael Zambrano, one of the referees, said.

"Once I saw how the organization worked and the great bond that exists among all the participants, I continued to help out and started refereeing games," Zambrano said, who also lends a hand with other OPI activities, doing "a little of everything."

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