Apr 24, 2024 - News

Arizonan named to USA Blind Soccer Men's National Team

A headshot of a soccer player next to an action shot of the player.

Alvaro Mora Arellano made the 2024 USA Blind Soccer Men's National Team. Photos: Courtesy of U.S. Association of Blind Athletes

Phoenix is home to one of nine athletes selected for the 2024 USA Blind Soccer Men's National Team, which is working toward the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

Why it matters: Blind soccer — a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. — gives visually impaired players a safe way to compete in the world's most popular sport.

How it works: The game has five players per team: one sighted goalkeeper and four athletes with visual impairments who wear eye shades to ensure the same level of vision.

  • The ball makes sounds when it moves, and each team has a guide behind the opposing goal to help direct players.
  • Players must shout, "Voy!" (Spanish for "go") when pursuing the ball to avoid collisions.
  • The crowd must stay silent — except when a goal is scored — so players can hear the cues.

Zoom in: Phoenix resident Alvaro Mora Arellano grew up in Mexico as an avid soccer fan. He lost his vision at age 3 after battling eye cancer, but his infatuation with a soccer ball never faltered, he told Axios Phoenix.

  • His parents, instead of coddling their healing son, encouraged him to "be like any other kid," and his cousins found ways for him to play in their pickup games.
  • "I think chasing that ball led me through my rehabilitation. I was able to move without limitations," he said.

Flashback: Shortly after moving to the U.S. in 2003, he took up Goalball — another Paralympic sport with soccer influences.

  • When the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes announced its intent to form the first U.S. blind soccer team, Mora Arellano jumped at the chance.
  • He made the first-ever men's national team in 2022 and last year scored the first goal in the team's history against Canada.

What they're saying: "I always imagined how it would be to be on a soccer field and score a goal and be a part of a team," Mora Arellano said.

What's next: Blind soccer has been a Paralympic sport since 2004, but the U.S. will send its first team to the games in 2028.

What we're watching: At 37, Mora Arellano said he knows his age may be a barrier to making the team and that doing so will require intense training and discipline.

  • "I will do my best and, of course, try to be there, try to win a spot to be in that final list of players that will have the honor to represent the country in such a big space," he said.

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