David Ospina, Emi Martinez and Carl Jenkinson recently met blind and partially-sighted young people who enjoy regular football sessions with Arsenal in the Community.
The five young people, who are also supported by the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) were invited to our training ground to show our players how to play blind football.
Arsenal in the Community run weekly adapted football sessions for people with visual impairment at the Arsenal Hub - Home of Arsenal in the Community - just a stone’s throw from Emirates Stadium.
The sessions aim to bring people together and to enjoy playing football, but it is a competitive game for the players. While the core game remains the same as sighted football, there are alterations to make the game accessible to people with sight loss.
Ospina, Jenkinson and Martinez paid special attention as our talented guests showed them the principles of the adapted game, which call for a heightened focus on verbal communication and listening during play.
Players also use a slightly smaller but heavier ball that contains ball bearings to help them track its movements around the pitch. Arsenal fan Mahir Topal, 24, took the lead in coaching the players.
Mahir has followed Arsenal his whole life. He enjoys his weekly football sessions with Arsenal, but also wants to run his own team one day.
He said: "It's been a dream come true. I've followed Arsenal for as long as I can remember and getting to meet my heroes and share my love of football with them has been an incredible experience. They were actually really good at playing blindfolded, we weren't expecting that!"
Arsenal in the Community’s Disability Officer, Luke Howard said: "It is always great to get the players involved in our community work and when we get opportunities like the to show some of the obstacles disabled people face as well as the brilliant ways they can overcome them and excel it is really inspiring."
“For our participants today has been great recognition for their perseverance and their determination, and for the players, I think it has been a really great educational experience in the lengths people will go to be involved with football.
"Days like today display Arsenal’s commitment to inclusivity and opportunity for everyone from fans to first team players, irrelevant of age; gender, race, disability or sexual orientation."
Through our 'Arsenal for Everyone' initiative, we provide adapted facilities and support for people with any form of disability.
We also provide specialist projects run by Arsenal in the community, as we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy football.
For more information on Arsenal in the Community’s disability projects, contact Luke Howard on: email@example.com
For more information on RSBS’s services, visit: rsbc.org.uk/sport
Copyright 2019 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.