It has been an extraordinarily busy past few months for deaf football on the whole.
Preparations for the November World Deaf Futsal Championships being held at Sofia, Bulgaria are up to schedule with the Bulgarian Deaf Sport Federation keeping me up to date. With almost 7 months to go, I am excited about the prospect of seeing the top deaf footballers from all over the world battle it out on the pitches at Futsal.
Back in February, I attended a meeting at the Football Association in London with other key partners from the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability, the Cerebral Palsy International Sports & Recreation Association, the World Amputee Football Federation, and the International Blind Sports Federation.
After a lengthy discussion, it was generally felt that FIFA was continually being asked for help by several disability groups and it would be much more influential and productive if all the international disability sports organisations spoke with "one voice" to promote disability football opportunities across the world.
We agreed to set up a World Disability Football Group to work with the FIFA to develop football and links with FIFA, e.g. support and recognition for each impairment football competition and tournaments. I felt proud to be the only deaf (and disabled) member of the World Disability Football Group acting as a representative for deaf football. I believe we must recognise and make the most of this fantastic opportunity to get deaf football on the world map. I will keep you updated on our progress through enews.
It was heart-warming to see support from other key partners of the group, as although they wanted to focus on Paralympics football, they did not want to exclude the Deaflympics or deaf football on the whole. We intend to work to see an increase in deaf and disabled football promoted through FIFA, e.g. on their website. The next meetings are to be held in Bonn, Germany and Amsterdam, Netherlands in June and September respectively.
Last month, I visited Katerini, Greece for the upcoming inaugural World Deaf Football Championships in 2008. Katerini is a 45 minutes drive from the city of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. In the Macedonian coastlines, the climate is very mild and has the characteristics of Mediterranean climate. Both the Olympus and the Pierian Mountains protect the plain from the winds and largely contribute to the mild conditions best suited for football.
This was one of the main factors to relocate the World Deaf Football Championship to Katerini instead of Athens to provide the best possible conditions for the participants. The competition will be held over 11 days: between 2nd July to 12th July 2008.
The Olympian Bay Hotel in Leptokaria will be used as a base for all players and officials. All six stadiums from Leptokarya, Pei Pori, Litochoro, Dion, Karitsa and Katerina are between All stadiums are located between 1.5kms and 15kms; approximately 5 / 20 minutes drive from Olympia Bay Hotel base.
I am confident that the Hellenic Deaf Sports Federation will able to deliver a quality World Deaf Football Championship in Katerini although they will have to get the ball rolling immediately as I am aware of the questions raised from the deaf football community about the tournament going ahead.
Please get in touch with your regional confederation if you are interested in entering the World Deaf Football Championship next year.
I would like to thank Ioannis Stoufis, Antonis Zaspalis, Andreas Rigas, Kiriazidis Paschalis of the Hellenic Deaf Sports Federation and Christos Dendrinos of the Hellenic Football Federation for their hospitality and kindness they showed during my visit in Katerini and Thessaloniki.
ICSD Technical Director - Football