An adaptation of the world’s most popular sport, Football 7-a-side joined the Paralympic programme at the New York and Stoke Mandeville (England) Games of 1984. Since then, the sport has grown and spread across the world.
Football 7-a-side was created in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, during the third edition of the Cerebral Palsy International Games in 1978. At the same event, the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA) was founded to manage the sport.
The first world championships were held in 1982, in Denmark, two years before the sport debuted at the Paralympic Games. Football 7-a-side is only played by men with cerebral palsy caused by traumatic brain injury or stokes.
All of the athletes are assessed before any competition and classified in classes 5 to 8. The higher the class, the greater the athlete’s functional potential. To ensure that people of all classifications take part, a rule determines that at least one member from class 5 or 6 must be on the field throughout the match, and only two players may be class 8.
Another interesting aspect of the sport is the fact that each participant is assigned to a function that is compatible with his capabilities. Class 5 players, with problems in their legs and limited ability to pass and kick the ball, are often goalkeepers, for example.
The official rules are similar to those of the International Football Federation (known by French acronym FIFA), with adaptations to facilitate Football being played by people with cerebral palsy. These adaptations include the following: each team has six linemen plus a goalkeeper, rather than the traditional 11; there is no offside rule; matches have two halves each lasting 30 minutes; and throw-ins, which use both hands in conventional football, can also be executed with just one.
Football 7-a-side’s similarity to football has helped the sport to gain popularity across the world, and thanks to frequent revisions of the official rules, people with more severe cases of cerebral palsy have a greater opportunity to play it.