Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Football 7-a-sideMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Football 7-a-side

Football 7-a-side

The world has long loved the game of football (known to Americans as soccer). It is no wonder, then, that the Paralympics feature two versions of the classic game: football 5-a-side and football 7-a-side. Football 5-a-side is intended for athletes with a severe visual impairment, while football 7-a-side is designed for athletes with physical impairments.

As in able-bodied football, football 7-a-side is played on a turf field with the aim of scoring on an opponent’s goal while defending your own. The fast-paced game features unmatched athleticism and skill and is open to male athletes with cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system., traumatic or acquired brain injury, or stroke.

Football 7-a-side is open only to male athletes. The game follows the standard FIFA rules with only a few exceptions. One of the most noticeable, of course, is the smaller team size; each side only has seven athletes on the field instead of the standard 11. In addition, there is no off-side rule, and under-arm and one-arm throw-ins are accepted for players who are physically incapable of completing the traditional overhead throw-in.

The game is 60 minutes long, with two 30 minute halves. If the score is tied at the end of 60 minutes in a semifinal or final game, play continues for two periods of 10 minutes. If the score is still tied at the end of overtime, the winning team is decided by a penalty kick shoot-out.

 

TIMELINE:

1978
The first international football 7-a-side competition takes place in Scotland during the third edition of the Cerebral PalsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system. International Games

1982
First football 7-a-side world championships held in Denmark

1984
Football 7-a-side debuts at the Los Angeles Paralympic Games

1992
Team USA competes in Paralympic football 7-a-side for the first time

1996
Team USA finishes fourth during the Atlanta Games, its best finish to date

EVENTS

Paralympic football 7-a-side competition includes one tournament for male athletes. Each game is played by two teams of seven players each.

EQUIPMENT

Paralympic football 7-a-side is played on a 75-by-55-meter (246-by-180-foot) pitch with a 5-by-2-meter (16-by-7-foot) goal, a bit smaller than a standard soccer pitch.

All players wear shin guards and cleats. They use a standard football.

FAST FACTS

Moves: When a player kicks the ball through his opponent’s legs to get past him, it is called a nutmeg. Players also engage in sliding tackles to try to steal the ball from an opponent.

Bonus time: Referees may add up to three minutes of play to a match to account for time lost when the ball was not in play, for example, during an injury break. This time is also known as stoppage time.

Offenses: A foul is considered illegal contact with an opponent and includes shoving, pushing, kicking and tripping. Penalty cards are used by referees to note when a player has committed a serious foul. A yellow card serves as a warning; a second offense by the same player will result in a red card and expulsion from the game.

Athlete Spotlight:

Adam Ballou

Adam Ballou was born with cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system.. A stroke at six months old left him hemiplegicDefinition: A person with a permanent, congenital (existing at birth) condition in which he or she is partially or totally unable to move one vertical side of the body, usually due to disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain. on his left side, and though his parents were told he may never walk, no one stopped believing in Ballou. His parents started him in soccer at the age of three, despite doctor skepticism, and a tendon transfer in his left foot corrected his limp. Though his left side is still weaker, sport helped Ballou gain the use of both of his feet.

In February 2007, at the age of 14, Ballou was recruited to Team USA and began training with the football 7-a-side team in Los Angeles. He was too young to compete internationally yet, but Ballou was part of the team when they didn’t make the cut for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. They redoubled their efforts and were one of only eight teams admitted to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Ballou and his teammates also took seventh place at the 2015 CSPIRA world championships in Burton, England.

While pursuing his athletic career, Ballou has studied international affairs and Spanish at James Madison University in Virginia. He relishes all the stars he has had a chance to meet—from President Barack Obama to Olympian Michael Phelps—and considers himself extremely lucky to be a part of Team USA. The midfielder will be 24 years old for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.


CLASSIFICATION

Paralympic football 7-a-side competition is open to male athletes with a specific type of physical impairment: ataxiaDefinition: A lack of muscle control during voluntary movements., hypertoniaDefinition: Abnormal increase in muscle tension that reduces the ability of a muscle to stretch. or athetosisDefinition: Condition in which abnormal muscle contractions cause involuntary writhing.—three impairment types most commonly associated with cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system. or traumatic brain injury.

Note: The models presented below are examples. A classification evaluation must be performed to determine an athlete’s sport class(es).

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

Classifications for football 7-a-side range from FT5 to FT8 based on how their impairment affects their athletic performance. A lower grade indicates the athlete has an impairment that more severely disrupts activity. Each team must have at least one FT5 or FT6 player on the field at all times and is not allowed more than one FT8 athlete on the field at any time.

FT5

FT6

FT7

FT8

FT5

Athletes with the most severe impairments are classified FT5. These athletes have hypertoniaDefinition: Abnormal increase in muscle tension that reduces the ability of a muscle to stretch. in both lower limbs and, to some degree, in both upper limbs. This impairment makes it difficult for these players to run, turn and stop. Given their limited kicking ability, FT5 players are sometimes assigned the role of goalkeeper.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional

FT6

FT6 athletes are affected by coordination and balance challenges in all four limbs due to ataxiaDefinition: A lack of muscle control during voluntary movements. or athetosisDefinition: Condition in which abnormal muscle contractions cause involuntary writhing.. These players tend to have difficulty dribbling the ball.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional

FT7

The FT7 sport class is reserved for athletes with hemiplegiaDefinition: A permanent, congenital (existing at birth) condition in which you are partially or totally unable to move one vertical side of the body, usually due to disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain.. These players walk and run with a limp and may have an asymmetrical stride length. As a result of their impairment, these athletes often pivot on the unaffected side and use their affected foot to kick the ball.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional

FT8

FT8 is reserved for athletes with the mildest physical impairments that still meet the minimum requirement for competition in the Paralympic Games. These athletes may experience involuntary muscle contraction or hesitation before explosive movements, which constitute activity limitations compared with able-bodied players.

Impairment Severity Scale

UnaffectedMildModerateSevereNonfunctional