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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Blind Soccer introduced to the City
by Randy Pascal

The Olympic hangover has scarcely subsided in Rio de Janeiro, as the Brazilian city prepares for the next wave of sporting visitors. From September 7th to the 18th, the world gathers, once again, in South America, as the 2016 Paralympic Games provide their own brand of unique interest and excitement.

Many Sudburians are already aware that 20 year-old Meghan Mahon, born and raised in Timmins, but having called Sudbury home for the past year or so, will proudly represent Canada in the goal ball competition.

In fact, Mahon has been a mainstay since her arrival in Sudbury, at a handful of athletic initiatives designed to offer opportunities to the visually impaired, and countless others for that matter.

This summer would see soccer volunteers Jim Cress and Frank Malvaso devoting their time, each and every Wednesday evening, introducing the sport of “blind soccer” to the area. Mahon has been a mainstay at the practices, along with a handful of other local notables, whose names are familiar to those who have followed para sports in Sudbury.

Recent Lo-Ellen Park graduate Chris Barclay, who leaves in September to begin post-secondary studies in Public Health at the University of Waterloo, was a regular at the SDSSAA Track & Field Championships, making a seemingly annual trek to OFSAA competitions.

But it was as a student in grades seven and eight, at the W. Ross MacDonald School (for the Blind) in Brantford, that Barclay first embraced the notion of testing his limits. “They had soccer, but it wasn’t as structured, they didn’t have official rules, and I didn’t really play competitively,” said Barclay.

“Their sports program is very, very good. A lot of the Team Ontario stuff is based out of there, and I was on the swim team.” Time in the pool would give way to the track, for Barclay, before he would feel the call of the pitch and the “beautiful game”.

“I got to watch the Para Pan Am Games live last summer, and we watched the blind soccer there.” He was hooked. “The running I did helped a lot, and a lot of the track and field athletes that I competed with were soccer players as well.”

Despite his impressive base, Barclay still eased his way into his latest sporting venture, one which features a soccer ball that has been modified to make a jingling or rattling sound. “The passing isn’t so bad, because you usually have the ball right in front of you,” he explained.

“But for shooting, you have to get your leg lined up right with the ball, and then make sure you get a good, hard shot. Balancing the accuracy and power is really tough.” Another regular to the goal ball scene, ten year old Logan Larivičre is also adjusting to this new sport, even though he has played regular soccer with elementary school teams in the past.

“At school, there were no bells in the soccer balls,” he noted. “I don’t like playing as much with a blindfold.” Dealing with the effects of albinism, Larivičre does have some sight, but must wear his blindfold to level the playing field with this group.

In September, he will travel to Brantford to complete his grade five studies at the afore-mentioned W. Ross MacDonald School (for the Blind), looking to expand his repertoire of sports. “I’ve played goal ball and done para nordic skiing,” he said. “Goal ball is easier than this. You don’t have to run around as much.”

Anyone seeking more information on the blind soccer program in Sudbury is asked to contact Jim Cress at (705) 919-3125.

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