Goalball

Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Played by athletes with visual impairments using a ball with bells inside, goalball is among the most exciting team sports on the Paralympic programme.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of goalball in one minute. Whether you are familiar with goalball or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.

One Minute, One Sport | Goalball
01:29

Overview

Developed as a rehabilitation activity for injured soldiers returning from World War II, goalball has since spread around the world and is now played in more than 100 countries.

The game is played by two teams of three people on a court 18m long and 9m wide. Teams have up to six players, but only three are on court at a time. The aim is to score by rolling the ball at speed into the opposition's goal, while the other team attempts to block the ball with their bodies. After a ball is thrown, the defending players have 10 seconds to throw the ball back after one of them touches it.

The ball is made of hard rubber and has holes in it that allow bells inside to be heard as the ball moves. Goals extend across the full width of the court at either end and are 1.3m high. The team that scores the most goals is the winner.

Games are divided into two halves of 12 minutes each, and a golden goal rule is used if a game enters overtime (two three-minute halves). If the score is still even at the end of overtime, extra throws will decide the winner.

Spectators must be quiet during play so that players can hear the ball and each other, but they are free to cheer when a goal is scored.

Goalball was introduced to the Games as a demonstration event at Toronto 1976, then added to the Paralympic programme as a full medal sport four years later in Arnhem. A women's competition first featured at the New York and Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games.

Find out about the details of goalball classification

Event Programme

  • Team tournament (Men/Women)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 12: Tuncay Karakaray of Turkey in action during Goalball - Men's Preliminary - Group B match between United States and Turkey at Future Arena on day 5 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at  on September 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 12: Tuncay Karakaray of Turkey in action during Goalball - Men's Preliminary - Group B match between United States and Turkey at Future Arena on day 5 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at on September 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

Essence of the sport

"Quiet please. Play."
Strategy and precision in a battle for success

Powerful attacks, determined defence and elaborate strategies developed between the players on court and the support team on the bench make goalball a compelling sport to watch.

Any unnecessary noise made by a thrower from the act of throwing until the ball touches the defensive team's player will be penalised. Attackers must stay quiet until the ball touches the opponent. They may throw some balls that bounce across the court, while throwing others faster or slower to deceive their opponents. They may make a swift counterattack or try to move away from the point where they caught the ball without making any noise.

Defenders must strive to locate the ball by listening for the bells inside it, the attacker's footsteps and the movement of the ball. They then lie across the court to form a wall. The key to an effective defence is cooperation to cover the goal without gaps.

The team on the bench analyses the attack and defence patterns of the opposition and develops tactics. They are forbidden from speaking during play, but convey information during time outs and the half-time break.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 12: Fengqing Chen of China in action during Goalball - Women's Preliminary - Group D match between China and Canada at Future Arena on day 5 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at  on September 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 12: Fengqing Chen of China in action during Goalball - Women's Preliminary - Group D match between China and Canada at Future Arena on day 5 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at on September 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

Wide-open competition

Rio 2016 gold medallists Lithuania (men) and Turkey (women) are among the sport's most prominent teams today, but countries from Europe, Asia, and North and South America are closing the gap.

No country has won more than two gold medals across the 11 stagings so far, reflecting the sport's strength right across the world. The men's teams from Finland and Denmark, and the women's teams from Canada and the United States, have both stood on top of the podium twice.

With a new generation of players emerging since Rio 2016, the competition in Tokyo promises to be intense and fascinating.

Trivia