Losing his eyesight as a 10-year-old boy growing up in Cameroon proved a dramatic and life-changing moment for Yvan Wouandji that would ultimately transform his life forever. That moment began a series of events that set him on a path to reaching the pinnacle of sport while travelling the world and pursuing his own professional ambitions.
Now, 13 years later, Yvan lives in Paris, where he is studying at a prestigious college to be a journalist. He is also the star player in the French national blind football team, and admiringly referred to as “the Lionel Messi of blind football” having won the European Championships and proudly possessing a silver medal from the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The fast and skillful Yvan also became an internet sensation after scoring a wonder goal in an international match against Germany that has been viewed almost 800,000 times.
Following the loss of his vision, Yvan was taken to Paris for an operation in an attempt to restore his eyesight, and while the operation proved unsuccessful he was enrolled within a local school for the blind and the vision-impaired. It was a chance discussion with his school music teacher, who was interesting in introducing blind football to France that opened up a world of new possibilities and instilled a love of the game in young Yvan. While Yvan wears the number 11 shirt for Club Saint-Mande in the French national league, it is playing for the French national team that has allowed him to travel throughout the world, and participate in international competitions in the UK, Italy, Turkey and Japan.
Yvan and a number of his teammates joined the 2016 Copa Coca-Cola International Camp in Paris in July 2016, meeting 82 young footballers from over 20 countries and giving them the opportunity to experience playing the fast-growing sport. Today, over 30 countries have representative teams in blind football with a growing club scene around the world. While sighted football has 11 players per side, blind football has just five players on each side. To ensure a level-playing field, all four outfield players must wear a mask, while the goalkeeper can be sighted or have limited vision. In a unique difference, spectators are urged to be silent in blind football so that the players can hear each other and the ball which contains ball-bearings.
Speaking of his story Yvan said, “Football is my true passion and my love, and in blind football, we have the same passion determination and ambition as in any other sport. Ever since I learned of the game I wanted to play at the highest level and hard-work and determination have allowed me to achieve some great things and experience some amazing places throughout the world.”
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