Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Football 5-a-sideMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Football 5-a-side

Football 5-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 7-a-side is intended for athletes with physical impairments, while football 5-a-side is designed for athletes with a severe visual impairment.

As in able-bodied football, football 5-a-side is played on a turf field with the aim of scoring on an opponent’s goal while defending your own. The 5-a-side version is unique, known for developing athletes immensely skilled in close ball control. The sport focuses much less on passing than standard soccer and much more on dribbling techniques.

The football 5-a-side team is made of four outfielders with visual impairments, assisted by three sighted individuals: a goalkeeper (the fifth on-field teammate), a coach and another guide (both off field). The three sighted guides speak instructions to outfielders.

Football 5-a-side is open only to male athletes. The rules are similar to able-bodied football with some modifications. Game play consists of two 25-minute halves; in the case of a tie, two 10-minute extra-time periods are played. The game is distinct from both standard and football 7-a-side in that the pitch (field) is surrounded by a rebound wall. The ball—which makes noise when it moves—is perpetually in-bounds, meaning there are no throw-ins and play is continuous. There are likewise no off-sides. When the goalkeeper obtains the ball, he cannot throw the ball past the midfield. Once the goalkeeper has released the ball, the team has 15 seconds to cross the halfway line or else they must forfeit possession.



Football 5-a-side is created in Spain

The first world championships take place in Brazil

Paralympic football 5-a-side debuts as an exhibition sport in Sydney

Paralympic football 5-a-side debuts as a medal sport in Athens


Paralympic football 5-a-side competition includes one tournament for male athletes. Each game is played by two teams of five players each—four outfielders with visual impairments and one sighted goalkeeper.


The game is played on a 42-by-22-meter (138-by-72-foot) turf pitch, significantly smaller than 7-a-side or standard football [soccer] pitches. Side walls around the pitch are 1.2 meters (4 feet) high, ensuring the ball remains inside. During game play, outfielders wear eyepatches or eyeshades to ensure a level playing field for all athletes, and a small bell inside the soccer ball helps outfield players follow the ball at all times.


Shhh!: As in goalball and judo, football 5-a-side audience members are expected to remain silent to help players hear the ball and instructions from the sighted guides.

Foul ball: If a team accumulates three fouls in a half, subsequent fouls are punished with a double penalty: a direct shot on goal from 8 meters (26 feet) out. If a single player commits five fouls, he is suspended for the duration of the game.

Spoken word: Players must clearly say the word “go” when they are about to try to tackle an opponent or take possession of the ball.


To be a Paralympic football 5-a-side outfielder, an athlete must be male and have a severe visual impairment. The sighted goalkeeper does not need to undergo Paralympic classification.

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

There is only one sport class in football 5-a-side, and all eligible athletes compete in the same tournament. Learn more about athletes with visual impairments in the Paralympic Games.



These athletes have very low visual acuity and little to no light perception.

Impairment Severity Scale