Goalball is a team sport for athletes who are blind or have a visual impairment and is played with a ball with bells inside. It is a popular paralympic sport and is played competitively in more than 100 countries. Note, men and women compete separately.
It started off as a rehabilitation activity for injured World War II soldiers in Europe and was demonstrated at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Toronto. By 1978, the sport's first world championship was held in Austria and goalball became a full part of the Paralympics from the 1980 Summer Paralympics in Arnhem. The women's tournament first featured at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games. The International Blind Sports Federation, responsible for fifteen sports for the blind and partially sighted in total, is the governing body for this sport.
It's a fast-pased sport and easy to understand, although as with all sports, there are more technical details you can learn about once you've got the basics.
All athletes have their eyes taped (a big sticking plaster over their eyes) and then black-out eyeshades over the top to ensure they are all have the same circumstances as some athletes may have some eyesight and some may be fully blind.
Two teams of three athletes compete to try and get a ball in the net to score a goal while the opposing team stay low to block the ball with their bodies. The teams take turns rolling the ball and the opposing team have to use their excellent hearing skills to locate the ball and stop it going in their net.
The court (field of play) is 18x by 9m and all the lines on the court are tactile. The goals at either end are 9m wide (as wide as the court) and 1.3m high.
Each match is divided into two 12 minute halves with a half-time break of three minutes. Each team can call 'Time Out' when they want a substitution or 45 second break. Up to three substitutes are allowed in addition to the three starting players.
If the scores are tied at full-time, there can be additional three minutes halves of overtime. There are extra throws, similar in principle to a penalty shootout, to determine the winning team.
The Goalball arena is silent during play so that players can hear the ball, but spectators are free (and are encouraged) to cheer when a goal is scored.
- Extra Rules
- High ball: when a player makes a throw, the ball must touch the court at least once on or before the high ball line in the player's own end, or it will be ruled a high ball.
- Long ball: when a player makes a throw, the ball must touch the court at least once in the neutral area of the court, or it will be ruled a long ball.
- Third-time throw: a player may only throw the ball twice in a row.
- 10 seconds: a defending team must throw the ball within 10 seconds of its first contact with the ball.
- Illegal coaching: team members on the bench may only communicate with players on the court during an official break in play (when there is a whistle stoppage). They must stop communicating when the referee says: 'Quiet please."
In the event of any of the above fouls, a penalty is awarded with one player staying on the court to defend the goal while the rest of the defending athletes must move off the court.
Goalball at London 2012 Paralympics
For London 2012, the Goalball competition will take place at the brand new Handball Arena in the Olympic Park, purpose-built for the Games from Thursday 30 August to Friday 7 September 2012.
Both the men's and women's tournaments begin with a round-robin group stage. The 12 men's teams are divided into two groups of six teams, while the 10 women's teams are divided into groups of five. The top four teams in each group qualify for the quarter-finals, from which point the tournaments are played in a knockout format.
The ball is made of rubber and is 24-25cm in diameter. It has eight holes that allow players to hear the bells within the ball when it moves.