Goalball is a competitive sport played by visually impaired athletes. The game uses a ball with bells inside. Goalball has its roots as a rehabilitation activity for injured World War II soldiers. It became a medal sport at the 1980 Paralympic Games, in Arnhem, the Netherlands. A women’s tournament entered the Games in 1984. Now one of the Paralympics’ most popular sports, goalball is played competitively in more than 100 countries.
Rules of the Game
The object of the game is to score by rolling the ball into the opposition’s goal, while opponents block the ball with their bodies. All athletes wear eyeshades to shield their vision, so that athletes with varying degrees of vision can compete together. The ball, which is always thrown toward the goal (rather than passed), can travel at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, so players must react quickly. Spectators must keep quiet during play so that players can hear each other and the ball—though cheering after a goal is allowed.
Paralympic matches are played over two 12-minute periods. Twelve men’s teams and 10 women’s teams compete in two groups each. The top four teams in each group enter the quarterfinals. They play in a knockout format for the gold.