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Video: First-ever US blind soccer men’s national team hold tryouts in Chula Vista

As San Diego’s Wave FC ended their season, a new soccer team began its formation in Chula Vista last week. Thirteen players with visual impairments and three sighted goalkeepers tried out for the first-ever USA Blind Soccer National Team. Eight players and two goalies will make up the final team and will begin international competition in 2023 and eventually represent the U.S. in the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games.

Players and goalies from all over the U.S. — including two from San Diego County — attended the tryouts.

While blind soccer is very similar to sighted soccer, there’s a few key differences. For example, the ball used is heavier and has rattles in the lining. Also, there’s only four field players per team at a time on the field and players are required to say “voy” if attacking the ball — Spanish for “I am coming.”

“Communication is vital to blind soccer. It's the only way we could really be out here and play a game without it ending up in everyone being injured,” said Cody Kirchner from New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was among the players at the tryouts.

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Blind soccer has been a part of the Paralympic Games since 2004, but the U.S. has never had its own team. When Los Angeles hosts the next Paralympics, the U.S. will receive an automatic entry into the blind soccer competition as the host country.

"To think of all the blind people who are sitting at home right now thinking they can't do this … I'm out here trying to represent them, trying to spread this message that, ‘yes, you can.’ You can do those things. And if you do them well enough, you can one day put on this jersey too."
Cody Kirchner, trying out for U.S. blind soccer men's national team

“In the next six years, the world’s two biggest sporting events will happen on American soil,” said Molly Quinn, CEO of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). “In 2026, the FIFA World Cup will be played throughout the U.S. for the first time in three decades. In 2028, the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place in Los Angeles. It will mark the first time that L.A. has played host to the Paralympic Games.”

When Kirchner was younger, he thought sports were out of the question because he was visually impaired. Discovering blind sports helped him realize his dreams.

“To put on a jersey with ‘USA’ on the back of it is just incredible,” Kirchner said. “And then to think of all the blind people who are sitting at home right now thinking they can't do this … I'm out here trying to represent them, trying to spread this message that, ‘yes, you can.’ You can do those things. And if you do them well enough, you can one day put on this jersey too.”

The final team will be announced Nov. 1.

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Mike Damron joined the KPBS team as a video journalist in 2019. He was born in Orlando and grew up in Navy towns like Jacksonville, Pensacola, and even abroad in Bermuda before graduating high school in Nashville. He joined the Navy six months before he graduated and was immediately shipped off to boot camp on the same base he was born. He attended the Navy School of Photography in Pensacola and served for more than ten years. The majority of his Navy career was spent in southeast Asia. He moved to San Diego from Atlanta and studied journalism at San Diego Mesa College. Mike previously worked at KUSI News where he got his start as a photojournalist.
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