Guatemala City is to host the first-ever Blind Football Central American Championships ©IBSA

Guatemala City is to host the first-ever Blind Football Central American Championships, the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) has announced.

Action is due to take place between November 7 and 12 following a successful bid from the Guatemalan Organization for the Blind and Deaf.

The event is open to the six IBSA member countries in the region: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Following friendly tournaments in the region in recent years, the IBSA Football Committee launched its Central American Development Project at the turn of this year. 

Using the 2017 International Paralympic Committee sports grant for football five-a-side, the project supports participating countries in the run-up to the competition and helps ensure the engagement of international referees and qualified classifiers.

It is also intended to leave a legacy of top-quality equipment in the region for the countries to continue expanding their national blind football programmes.

As an added incentive, it has been decided to award the Central American champions a slot at the IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Spanish capital Madrid in June next year.

Mark Lucas, IBSA's America chairman, said: "This is fantastic for the Americas region, to have the IBSA Central America Football Championships in Guatemala in November.

"The development of football and other sports for the blind and visually impaired has witnessed tremendous growth in Central America in the past several years, including aspects of improved coaches, more competent officials, and improved athlete skill development, which will translate to more competitive teams that can potentially compete in the World Championships in Madrid next year, and potentially qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

"We're grateful to the International Paralympic Committee for providing the funding we need to make this project a reality."

Costa Rica has a strong record in friendly tournaments and will be one of the teams to beat in Guatemala ©IBSA
Costa Rica has a strong record in friendly tournaments and will be one of the teams to beat in Guatemala ©IBSA

Lucas added:  "It’s a dream come true for the countries in the region and I know they are all very excited and looking forward to taking part.

"We're also very grateful to the Guatemalan Organization for the Blind and Deaf for presenting such a strong bid to host, and to the other countries who expressed interest in organising the event."

Ulrich Pfisterer, IBSA's Football Committee chairman, underlined the importance of the competition for blind football’s future.

"We are more than fulfilling our aim of making blind football a truly global game," he said. 

"With blind football now active in Oceania and now these Central American Championships, we are meeting the requirement for worldwide reach.

"I had the opportunity to visit Central America myself in April and meet the people involved there, and I know they are all thrilled at the idea.

"Ultimately, we would like to see these Central America Championships leading to a qualifying event for the American Championships or Copa de América, as they call it, in the same way as we now have a qualifier for the European Championships because of the sheer number of teams in the continent.

"Playing in Madrid will be a useful and worthwhile experience for the winning team. 

"Madrid will see matches and players of the very highest standard, and we are happy to offer a place to the Central American champions. 

"It will be a huge learning experience for whatever team wins, but a positive one for blind football in Central America."