By Jordan Bontke
PHOENIX, Arizona (KNXV) — Statistically speaking, the best player in a newly formed blind soccer league lives here in the Valley and he’s looking to grow the game.
Alvaro Mora Arellano, 35, can dribble with the best of them, gliding across the field quickly moving a rattling ball back and forth between his legs.
When Arellano strikes the ball, his coach warns anyone in the way to avoid getting hit because of how much it will hurt. The force he puts behind the ball can be heard throughout the gym.
Arellano can do it all on the soccer field – in complete darkness.
“To save my life, they had to remove my eyes,” he explained.
Growing up in Mexico until he was 15 years old, Arellano says everyone around him played soccer.
Finding a secure space for a blind teen to play the game wasn’t always easy, so he said he typically played in his grandmother’s front yard.
“In Mexico, it’s like a religion,” he said.
When Arellano was just three years old, cancer took his eyesight – but it didn’t take away his passion to play soccer.
This week, the first-ever USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team played international friendlies. The roster was hand-picked in part by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes and is made up of blind soccer players from around the country.
Arellano is the only player from Arizona.
Some of the changes to the game include a rattle in the ball, walls around a smaller soccer field, and every player wearing a blindfold to ensure no one with partial blindness has a competitive advantage.
The goalies are not blind as they help players by calling outfield positioning. “Like any other goalie,” said Arellano.
In the first-ever game for the Men’s U.S. Blind National Team, Arellano scored the first-ever goal.
Arellano’s mother Victorina told her son to never give up on his passion regardless of his ability, she was beaming with pride as he flourished on the field in Chula Vista, California.
With Arellano translating for his mother, she said, “he has achieved all of his goals. For me, it’s something wonderful, beautiful.”
The three goals scored by Arellano that game weren’t just points, but opportunities for others like him to join him and his teammates on the pitch, he said.
Arellano told ABC15 he wants to grow the game and teach the community about his story and blind soccer.
He says he is looking for others in the Valley soccer community to help make spaces available for the condensed field with walls and for other blind athletes to consider joining the game.
“It’s an invitation for other blind athletes to come and experience the beautiful sport and to start loving it with passion the way I do,” said Arellano.
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