Paralympic Soccer, like able-bodied soccer, is a fast, highly-skilled game. Called “Football 7-a-side” in international play, the sport made its Paralympic debut in 1984 and has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Soccer 7-a-side is for male athletes with cerebral palsy, although men with brain injury or stroke also play. The rules are the same as Olympic soccer, with a few changes to accommodate disabilities. Played with seven men per side, the field is smaller than FIFA regulation, at 75 x 55 meters. If a player can’t throw a ball in over his head, he can use an underhand toss. There is no offside rule in seven-player soccer.
The game is played in 30-minute halves with a 15-minute halftime. Soccer players are categorized according to their functional abilities, and rules specify which players can be on the field together.
Paralympic soccer also includes Soccer 5-a-side, which is played by athletes with visual impairments who wear blackout masks to ensure fair competition. The U.S. does not field a team in 5-a-side.
• Ukraine took home the gold in 2008, beating Russia and Iran to the top of the podium.
• The best U.S. finish in the Paralympics was 4th place at the 1996 Games.
Paralympics 2012 Competition: Sept. 1 – Sept. 9
Soccer 7-a-side is played by athletes with cerebral palsy or other conditions like stroke and brain injury that create similar disabilities.
Players are rated according to limb control and coordination while running. They are grouped in four divisions, C5 through C8, with C5 athletes having more limited physical functions and C8 athletes having greater functionality.
At least one athlete from the C5 and C6 divisions must be on the field at all times, or the team must play with only 6 players instead of 7. No more than two players from the C8 group can be on the field at the same time.