France and Spain will compete in blind futsal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games after winning places by finishing first and second at the 8th IBSA European Futsal Championships in Askaray, Turkey.
France retained the title they had won on home soil in Nantes in 2009 by overcoming six-times champions Spain 1-0 in the final of the event for totally blind players (B1). England came third, beating hosts Turkey 4-1 in the third-place play-off.
"We thank all the teams that shared this precious experience with us," Serbülent Şengün, grassroots manager of the Turkish Football Association (TFF), told UEFA.com. "Staging this event has offered many different benefits to Turkey and the TFF. It shows that disability football is very important and reminds us how people with disabilities can achieve great things when given a chance.
"This championship has given our country an opportunity to increase the awareness of blind futsal. Hopefully this tournament will be an important step in increasing blind participation in football."
The TFF contributes nearly €1m a year to support disability football in Turkey, organising training and tournaments in 81 cities for blind futsal, LD (learning disability) football, amputee football and deaf football. Special disability football centres, coaching programmes and leagues have also been set up.
"The vision of the TFF in developing disability football in Turkey is to show that football is not just about professional leagues. Our aim is to develop these different kinds of football and to create the opportunity for everbody to play the game," said Şengün.
The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) was awarded UEFA's annual CHF 1m charity cheque in 2006 and has benefited from the backing of European football's governing body with a futsal development programme for blind and partially sighted players, which has included seminars and clinics for coaches and referees across the continent.
Blind futsal will get the chance to showcase its development next year when it is the subject of a special exhibition match arranged between UEFA and the IBSA at the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-final in Gdansk, Poland, on 22 June.
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