Blind soccer players have opportunity of a lifetime

Six students from Murewa United Methodist High School in Zimbabwe have been selected to play in the International Blind Soccer Association’s women’s match in Japan in 2019. Front row, from left, are students Fadzai Kimberley Nyakudya, Chengetai Chipanga and Monalisa Makoma; back row, from left, are Teresa Mharadzirwa, teacher/guide Constance Tendere Munemo, Tanisha Zonde, goalkeeper Gellie Mawarire, Tarumbidzwa Taruvinga, sports director Pilani Nyanhanda and Titus Tsiga. Photo by Chenayi Kumuterera, UMNS.
Six students from Murewa United Methodist High School in Zimbabwe have been selected to play in the International Blind Soccer Association’s women’s match in Japan in 2019. Front row, from left, are students Fadzai Kimberley Nyakudya, Chengetai Chipanga and Monalisa Makoma; back row, from left, are Teresa Mharadzirwa, teacher/guide Constance Tendere Munemo, Tanisha Zonde, goalkeeper Gellie Mawarire, Tarumbidzwa Taruvinga, sports director Pilani Nyanhanda and Titus Tsiga. Photo by Chenayi Kumuterera, UMNS.

Tarumbidzwa Taruvinga, 17, has been blind since birth. A student at Murewa United Methodist High School, she never dreamed she would travel to Japan for a chance to compete in an international blind soccer tournament in Tokyo and Saitama. But now, if she gets enough funding, that is on her 2019 agenda.

“I just want to thank the almighty God for granting me this opportunity,” she said. “Being a firstborn brought up in a visually handicapped family, it’s amazing.

“I was so excited and could not believe my ears. … My parents were also excited to hear such good news and opportunity in my life.” Her parents, also blind, attended Murewa United Methodist High School as well.

“I will be glad to return and teach both boys and girls about the rules of blind football and techniques,”  Taruvinga added.

“I keep praying to Jesus for the funding of my trip,” she said. “I would play my best to raise the flag of excellence to my country, school and church.”

Six students from Murewa High School were selected to participate in the Feb. 20-24 soccer match: Taruvinga, Chengetai Chipanga, Kudakwashe Kundishora, Monalisa Makomo, Fadzai Kimberley Nyakudya and Tanisha Zonde.

Chipanga, 23, is looking forward to the friendly match between Japan at the International Blind Soccer Association’s Blind Football Women's Training Camp and Games.

A soccer player since age 4, Chipanga said visually impaired soccer is played by 10 players, with five on each team. All but the goalkeepers wear blindfolds. A guide stays outside of the field of play and provides instructions to the players.

“The ball produces a sound which is detected by the players so that they know the position of the ball and where to kick,” she said.

The ball contains loose ball-bearings so it rattles when it moves.

Monalisa Makoma, a student at Murewa United Methodist High School in Zimbabwe, kicks the ball during practice for the International Blind Soccer Association’s upcoming women's training camp and games in Japan. Photo by Chenayi Kumuterera, UMNS.
Monalisa Makoma, a student at Murewa United Methodist High School in Zimbabwe, kicks the ball during practice for the International Blind Soccer Association’s upcoming women's training camp and games in Japan. Photo by Chenayi Kumuterera, UMNS.
Through crowdfunding for the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee, Keon Richardson, blind football development coordinator for the organization, raised enough money to send Chipanga, who was selected in a draw, and one teacher, as well pay other expenses.

In addition to her volunteer work with the National Paralympic Committee, Richardson is a disability officer at the Palace for Life Foundation, the charitable arm of the English Premier League Crystal Palace Football Club.

The training camp and games in Japan are specifically for women with a visual impairment. The goal is to expose them to the game and spark interest in their country to develop the sport further.

Richardson said the event will begin with two days of training for all participants. On the third day, an International Blind Soccer Association world select team will compete.

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Michael Ityaishe Bulagango, president of the Zimbabwe National Paralympic Committee and a member of the International Blind Sports Federation, said, “The project started last year when our organization was invited to participate in the development of blind football in Zimbabwe.

“As there were more applications than spaces, a draw was made, and only Chengetai Chipanga was selected to go, which covered all costs at 500 euros (U.S. $565). The local organizing committee raised funds for two more players. For the other three women, he said, “we have to pay the local organizing committee 725 euros ($820 U.S.) per person and their return flight, which is about £1110 ($1,255 U.S.).”

“Our role is training our students, making applications for permission to go … and providing a teacher to guide the learners,” said Sydney Mapisaunga, deputy headmaster at Murewa United Methodist High School.

“It will be my first time to go to another continent and have an experience to play blind football,” said teacher/guide Constance Tendere Munemo.

The Rev. Alan Gurupira, administrative assistant to Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, said, “This event is a milestone in removing the myth that the visually impaired are doomed for life. Who ever thought the blind could play soccer? Bishop Nhiwatiwa has availed U.S. $400” to help with expenses.

“The ministry of the church to such challenged members of our community has borne fruit,” Gurupira said. “We can gladly give glory to God Almighty for taking these, our students, this far, and we continue to pray for the success of this trip.”

Kumuterera is a communicator with the Zimbabwe West Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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