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What is football 5-a-side? Everything you need to know about the sport ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The sport is one of three made exclusively for, and the most popular among, athletes with vision impairments, the International Paralympic Committee said.
Credit: AP
Members of Egypt's first blind soccer team wrestle for the ball during their friendly game in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, March 13, 2015. The team began as an independent initiative and is now backed by the Egyptian Football Federation and has their sights set on the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

TOKYO, Japan — The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games are set to begin on Aug. 24!

This is the first year viewers will be able to watch the Paralympics on primetime, and many viewers will be introduced to sports they never knew existed.

One such sport is called football 5-a-side, and it is one of three sports in the Paralympics that is made exclusively for athletes with vision impairments.

RELATED: How to watch the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Here is everything you need to know about the sport ahead of this summer's games:

How do you play football 5-a-side?

The sport is played by athletes with vision impairments. 

Players wear eyeshades to ensure a level playing field as athletes with complete blindness compete with and against those with other vision impairments, according to the International Paralympic Committee's website.

The only player who does not have to wear eyeshades is the goalkeeper, who cannot leave the goal area, but can be sighted or partially sighted.

The ball in football 5-a-side has a noise-making device inside of it to allow players to locate it by sound. Players must also repeatedly say "voy" or another sound when they have possession of the ball to alert other players of their position.

Teams also use an off-the-field guide to assist in providing instruction and directing players around the field. 

The game is played in silence and all outside noise, including cheering, ringtones, or coaching, is prohibited since the game relies heavily on listening and hearing.

Other than these differences, the game is very similar to football or American soccer. Matches consist of two halves that are 25-minute long with a ten-minute break at half-time. The team with the most points at the end of the second half is the winner.

RELATED: What is goalball? Everything you need to know about the unique sport in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Credit: AP
A member of Egypt's first blind soccer team prepares for a free kick during the team's friendly game in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, March 13, 2015. The team began as an independent initiative and is now backed by the Egyptian Football Federation and has their sights set on the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

How did football 5-a-side start?

Spain is considered the pioneer of the sport, also known as "blind football," according to the National Paralympic Heritage Trust's website. The country is recorded as playing the game as early as the 1920s.

Brazil, however, is the country that brought the sport into the mainstream by developing the football 5-a-side in the 1960s and holding the first national tournament in 1974.

The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) took over as the authority on the sport in 1996 when the first international competitions were held.

The first IBSA World Championships for the sport were held in Brazil in 1997 and the sport was first played in the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

Since then, the sport has grown to have more than 50 countries competing in it.

The sport had until recently been focused exclusively on men. However, there has been a recent push to bring more women into the sport.

The first World Championships for women will be held in Enugu, Nigeria, in November 2021, the International Paralympic Committee's website said.

Who are the top blind football athletes currently?

Argentina, Brazil, and Spain hold the top spots in the men's division of the IBSA's football 5-a-side world ranking. Team USA does not currently have a team for the sport.

There are no world rankings yet for the women's division.

See all of the top-ranked athletes from both the men's and women's divisions on the IBSA's blind football website here.

Arizona Paralympians 

Watch 12 News' coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. We're featuring Arizona athletes and other amazing stories from the Games on our 12 News YouTube playlist here.