Blind but not in the Dark: The Story of Visually-Impaired Football Fans

Published On: June 24, 2021 11:00 AM NPT By: Upendra Lamichhane

KATHMANDU, June 23: Born in Sandakpur of Ilam, the district of the rising sun in Nepal, he was fittingly named Surya by his parents. He was very young when he developed cataracts in both his eyes. Instead of taking him to a doctor, his parents took him to a shaman. As a result, he lost his eyesight when he was just a year and a half old. Living a blind life lived in darkness for the past 35 years, Surya Limbu is enjoying the bright glow of football these days. 

“I am desperately waiting for the match between France and Portugal which will take place tonight,” he told Republica during a telephone conversation on Wednesday, “The match will take place later in the night today. But I'm already excited for it.” Limbu, who likes all players of France, is a diehard fan of Mbappe. “I am just thrilled when he gets the ball,” he said, “I feel as if he is going to score a goal whenever he gets the ball.”

Limbu, who stays up till the middle of the night just to enjoy the football, says he listens to the commentary on his smartphone. “It is through the commentary that we watch the game,” he said, “However, we do create images of the players in our minds.”    

In his mind, he guesses his favorite star Mbappe must be a bit short and fair-skinned. “More often than not, he kicks the ball and rarely heads it. So he must be a bit short,” he said, “I imagine that he has a round face and is fair-skinned.”

He also likes Argentine star Messi who, according to him, must be a little bit fat and dark-skinned. “I like Messi as well,” he said, “However, my complaint against him is that he couldn’t score when his country needed him to score.”

Also, he likes Ronaldo’s free kicks very much. “He must be tall and very strong,” he said, “He must be very agile as well because of his presence across the field.”    

Like Limbu, there are other visually-impaired Nepalis who are enjoying this football season. The whole world is gripped by football fever because of the ongoing Euro Cup and Copa America and the blind football lovers in Nepal are no exception here. 

One of them is 37-year-old Deepak Pradhan of Koteshwar, Jadibuti. Pradhan who lost his eyesight when he was a small child, sits in front of his television set every night to enjoy the ongoing Euro Cup. “We watch the game through the commentary,” he said, “Football has given us happiness.” 

Pradhan, too, is a France supporter and likes Mbappe very much, like Limbu. “I also like Messi and Ronaldo,” he said, “But Mbappe is special because he is from my favourite team.” He, too, imagines what his favourite football star looks like.

“I think Mbappe has a wheatish complexion and is always smiling,” he said, “Ronaldo, however, must be very strong and tall.” Among the Nepali footballers, he is a fan of Kiran Chemjong, Anil Gurung and Bharat Khawas. “I enjoy the game played by foreign players,” he explained, “But I like the game of the Nepali players a thousand times more.”

Basudev Adhikari, 40, of Jorpati in the capital is another blind football fan. Adhikari, too, lost his eyesight when he was a child. He says he watches the game with his sons. “I ask my sons when I don’t understand something,” said Adhikari, a fan of Germany. “I think Germany will win the Euro Cup this time.”    He likes the playing style of Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar and thinks they are the best. “The commentators raise their voices and our hearts start beating faster when they get the ball,” he said, “I think they are the gods of today’s football.” 

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