Buenos Aires, Argentina – "¡Voy! ¡Voy! ¡Voy!" yell the players as they practice kicking goals on the pitch. The pitched screams are not the only sound during practice. Every time the ball moves, bells jingle. That's because the players can only hear the ball, not see it.
Los Murcielagos (bats) is the Argentine team of blind soccer players who are on their way to London for the Paralympics, which began Wednesday.
The players are not all completely blind, but to even out the levels of sight, team members play with masks covering their eyes. Only the goalies are sighted and are able to see unimpeded to block the incoming goals.
The team practices and prepares at CeNARD, the sporting center in the north of Buenos Aires, which is run by the National Secretary of Sports. There they have a fully equipped gymnasium and various pitches at their disposal to hone their skills.
The head coach, Martín Demonte, told deportes.gov.ar that "This could be the year. We have worked hard to form a team that can go and win the gold...Thanks to the support of the National Secretary of Sports and the work of Argentine Federation of Sports for the Blind (FADEC) we were able thoroughly practice and prepare, concentrating at CeNARD where we could try out many players, especially those from the interior of the country."
Foilán Padilla is one such player. He came to Buenos Aires from the province of Santiago del Estero. Mostly blind, he came to Buenos Aires when we was 17 and has found his place on the team.
On Friday, Los Murcielagos will kick off their shot at the gold against Iran. September 2nd they will face off with Great Britain and two days later on September 4th they will go up against Spain. The semi finals are set for September 6th and the finals on September 8th.
The eight countries competing in 5-a-side football are: (Pool A) Argentina, Iran, Great Britain, and Spain; (Pool B) Brazil, China, France, and Turkey.