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Not only Russia: 2018's other World Cups with the planet's top para-athletes

There may be no Messi and no Ronaldo but these football tournaments are still raising the bar alongside the big one

Blind football

More than 3.2 billion people will tune into the World Cup this summer, but away from the Russian extravaganza, the world’s most popular sport is doing good for others in tournaments kicking off around the world. England will probably lose in many of them too, but maybe not all…

The Three Lions already have a win to their name in the INAS World Football Championships, taking the title in Japan in 2002.

The INAS tournament gives a chance to para-athletes with an intellectual disability to take to the pitch in a battle for global supremacy. At least eight teams will head to Karlstad in Sweden between August 5 and 18 with the task of stopping Saudi Arabia’s all-conquering side, who have won on the last three occasions.

“Athletes still face barriers in all areas of their life and for many people sport is an opportunity to develop life skills like friendship and health,” INAS executive director Nick Parr says. “But each player goes back home after the tournament with an inspirational story to share with other people in their position.”

Brazil remain the dominant force in the mainstream tournament and it’s a similar story in the IBSA Blind Football World Championships, which is in full flight as 16 teams are currently battling it out to take the title in Madrid.

The seleção have taken four titles in the sport, which sees four outfield players sporting eye patches and blindfolds playing with ball bearing-filled football while a sighted goalkeeper acts as a guide from the goal area.

The IFCPF European Championships for athletes with cerebral palsy or an acquired brain injury will be held in Zeist, Netherlands, from July 22 to August 22. The profile of the sport, has grown recently, with former Birmingham City star Jack Rutter leading the charge.

He will be heading to the tournament as England coach after a change in classifications made him ineligible to play.

And for 2022, Fifa is making the controversial switch to a winter World Cup in Qatar – but the 16th Homeless World Cup is ahead of the game with more than 500 players from 47 countries heading to Mexico City’s Zócalo main square from November 8-15.

Image: Save The Dream

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