Disabled soccer players are defined by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
People with disabilities can receive long-lasting benefits from playing and participating in soccer at any level, both on and off the field. For youth soccer, the rules or the soccer ball are modified so kids from the age of six can start to play soccer. TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) was developed by US Youth Soccer to provide community based training program for athletes with intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities.
The soccer community supports six international disability categories for soccer players with differing disabilities who want to represent their country. These are Blind, Partially Sighted, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disabilities, and Amputee. Each variation has different classifications, rule adaptations, and competitions structure.
Blind Soccer For Disabled Soccer Players
Classification: Blind soccer players are classified according to their level of vision, like B1, B2, or B3. B1 players are considered blind (B2 and B3 players are classified as visually impaired or partially sighted).
- A solid surface is used to play the game
- Each team has five players
- The outfielders must wear eye patches and blindfolds
- Despite being sighted, the goalkeeper cannot leave the area
- There is no offside rule
- Soccer balls contain ball bearings, so when they move they make a noise
Partially Sighted Soccer
Classification: Disability soccer players whose eyesight is classified B2 or B3 qualify as partially sighted.
- Indoor pitches are used with a size-4 ball that bounces less than a standard ball
- There are corners and throw-ins, as in FIFA games, and the ball can go above the head
- A goalkeeper is sighted, but cannot leave his or her area
Deaf/Hearing Impaired Soccer
Classification: Disability soccer players must have an average hearing loss of 55 decibels in the better ear
- The game is played by normal FIFA rules
- However, players must not wear hearing aids
Cerebral Palsy Soccer
Classification: Disability soccer players must be ambulant.
- There are seven players on each side
- There are two halves of 30 minutes each
- There is no offside
- Players are allowed to roll or throw the ball back into play (to aid players with hemiplegia, paralysis down one side of the body)
Learning Disability Soccer
Classification: Disability soccer players must have an intellectual disability, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). To meet this standard, the player’s IQ score must be within or below the range of 70-75. Furthermore, their intellectual disability must have been evident during the developmental period (0-18 years). In addition, players must be in receipt of at least two of the following: special education, special accommodation, special employment, special protection, respite care, financial support.
- The game is played according to the standard FIFA rules.
Classification: Outfield players are either above or below-knee single-leg amputees. They must play without prostheses on aluminum wrist-crutches. The goalkeepers are single-arm amputees. The World Amputee Football Federation organizes the sport and has more than 30 member countries. Teamwork, physical fitness, and fairness are among the skills the organization values for disabled soccer players since its inception in 2005.
- Each half lasts 25 minutes
- Offsides do not exist
- Each side has seven players with unlimited substitutions
- Sizes of the pitch and goals are different – usually 60m by 40m
- Goalkeepers are not allowed to leave the penalty area
- With crutches, players are not allowed to strike the ball or another player
- In the event of an infringement, the player would be given a ‘hand ball’ decision, and the opposition would be awarded a direct free kick
- Slide-tackles are not permitted
- Instead of throwing the ball, players kick it into play
- It is forbidden for players to touch the ball with their stumps
- Goalkeepers cannot save the ball with their stump; if this rule is broken, a penalty is awarded
Paralympic 7-A-Side Soccer
An ambulatory athlete with a physical disability can participate in Paralympic soccer. During the 1984 Paralympic Games, soccer was introduced. Then, in 1992, the U.S. team competed in the first Paralympic Games in Barcelona. In matches, modified FIFA rules are implemented including the size of the field, size of the goals, number of players, and offside rules.
To participate in a Paralympic Soccer event, participants must be classified by a team of certified classifiers into categories according to their level of disability.
Classification: To be eligible, players must be able to walk (without assistance). Athletes with neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, a stroke, or a brain injury, can participate in Paralympic soccer competitions. The level of disability may cause only minimal motor dysfunction in these players.
- Offsides are not allowed
- FIFA rules allow under-arm throws if a player is physically incapable of throwing.
- Restarts require opponents to be seven meters from the ball.
- Based on their level of impairment, players are assigned to one of the three-sport classes. To ensure a fair game, each team must have an FT1 player on the field at all times and may have no more than one FT3 player on the field at any one time.
Power Soccer For Disabled Soccer Players
An athlete who uses a powered wheelchair plays Power Soccer. Quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities are common among athletes. Played indoors, a regulation basketball court is used for the game. There are five players on each team, and each half lasts 20 minutes in this team sport. During this challenging and skill-based game, two teams kick, defend, and attack a 13-inch soccer ball.
Disability Soccer Resources
As compared to the general population, people living with a disability are significantly more likely to be overweight, develop cardiovascular disease, and smoke tobacco. Playing soccer is something you should consider if you love the game and want more exercise. Here are some resources for you to contact for further information.
In addition to the many benefits of participating at any level, playing and watching soccer both on and off the soccer field has a definite impact on the health and well-being of disabled soccer players. Is disability football something you might be interested in? Whether you enjoy cheering for your favorite team from the stands and showing off their colors, or you want to be more active, maybe playing disability football is for you. You never know, someday you may represent your country at the World Cup or World Championships.
Depending on your disability or whether you prefer to play individually, another alternative to get involved in the beautiful game is playing Hacky Sack.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!