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Brazil's blind footballers see way to their own World Cup glory

AFP  |  Sao Paulo 

Brazil's all-conquering blind footballers their blind campaign Friday knowing they're not only top dogs -- but top targets.

Federation's Blind World Championships began in Thursday and runs through 17 June.

Reigning world and champions, the Brazilian team hopes to strike gold yet again, setting the example for their colleagues at in

Brazilian star Ricardinho, who already has three golds, says he's ready to battle for a back-to-back world title, starting with Friday's game against

"Everybody wants to take down the reigning champs, Brazil, and we want to get the title again. It will be complicated but we're going to fight a lot," he said.

Ricardinho, 29, was born to play Even as a tiny kid, when he still had good eyesight, admiring neighbors told his father to take him for trials at the big clubs.

However a problem in his retina that appeared at six year old left him totally blind at eight.

"In addition to the shock that I couldn't see, I was in pain because I thought I'd never play again," he said at Brazil's field in before leaving for

At 10, though, he discovered blind football, which is five-a-side and uses a ball with a bell. Only the goalkeepers are sighted.

"I started to train. It was a second chance to chase a dream I'd had since I was very small," he said.

Lacking access to the proper blind footballs, he'd wrap regular balls in plastic, so that they'd make noise, allowing him to practice. Then his family moved to the seaside city of so that he could attend a specialized school.

At 17, he played in his first and he went on to score more than a century of goals for the national team, earning two world titles -- and now gunning for his third.

- Playing for their lives -


Every on a team of the blind has his own compelling story. Ricardinho's teammate escaped war in and was brought to at 11. robbed him of his sight but not his love of football and now at 28 he plays for

His sporting idols, whom he always followed by listening to radio commentaries, are and Real legend and Brazil's own champion striker "the Phenomenon."

But Dumbo's true sights go much further. Although he arrived in all but unable to read, he now has a law degree, and he wants the public to recognize him and his teammates as top-flight winners.

"My dream is that we be seen as professional athletes, which is what we are," he said. That gold medal in also brought rewards of another kind: a chance to return to and hug his mother again for the first time in 15 years.

Brazil are fancied to win in but these players know that the real battle is life itself.

"Everyone's a fighter with his own challenges," Dumbo said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, June 08 2018. 17:00 IST