Goalball competitions are set apart from all other Paralympic events due to the unique atmosphere inside the playing venue. The object is to roll the ball into the opponent's goal while the opposing players try to block the ball with their body.
Bells inside the ball help to orient the players indicating the direction of the on-coming ball. Therefore, while play is in progress, the gymnasium is completely silent to allow the players to concentrate and react instantly to the ball. Goalball is played by male and female athletes who are visually impaired and wear "blackout" masks to ensure that all participants are competing equally. Each team has three players on the court and a maximum of three substitutes.
It is exclusively a Paralympic sport and was introduced to the world in 1976 at the Paralympics in Toronto. All competitors wear goggles while they are on the playing court, which allows athletes with varying degrees of vision to participate together. The governing body of Goalball is the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) and the sport is currently played in around 51 countries worldwide.
Goalball was invented in 1946 by Austrian, Hanz Lorenzen, and German Sepp Reindle, in an effort to help in the rehabilitation of blinded war veterans.
The game was introduced to the world in 1976 at the Paralympics in Toronto, Canada and has been played at every Paralympic since. As well every four years a World Competitions has been held with the first being in Austria in 1978. Since that time the popularity of goalball has increased to where it is played competitively in all IBSA regions.
A game of Goalball is played by two teams of three players with a maximum of three substitutes on each team. Competition is divided into men's and women's divisions.
The athletes attempt to throw the ball over the goal line at the opposite end of the court, thus scoring a goal. Defending players try to gain possession of the ball by putting themselves in between the thrower and the goal. When a defending player gains possession, it is then his or her team's turn to throw at the opposing team's goal. The only time there is a stoppage of play is after a goal has been scored, or if the ball crosses a sideline. If the ball crosses one of the sidelines before a defending player has touched or deflected it, "out" is called, and the ball is given to the opposing team. If the ball crosses over a sideline, having been deflected by a defending player, "blocked out" is called, and the ball is given to a player from the team who has just thrown. In both instances, "Play" is called and play continues.
The game is played on a rectangular court, which is divided into two halves by a centre line. Goals are erected at both ends and athletes are positioned in the area within three-meters of the goal lines. In tournament play all the lines are tactile. For each team there are two wings and a centre who hold their positions on the court while defending their goal.
There are three basic rules concerning the manner of throwing. Firstly, a thrown ball must touch the floor of the court before passing over the highball (or centre) line, which is the line 6 metre from the goal line at the thrower's end. Secondly, a throw must take place within eight seconds of coming under the control of the defending team. Passing can take place within the eight seconds, and players may move about the court to adopt favourable positions. Thirdly, no player may take more than two consecutive throws for his team. A number of personal and team penalties may be awarded for rule infractions.
Matches last a total of 20 minutes and are divided into two equal halves with a three-minute break in between. In case of a tie, after the end of the regular time, two additional overtime periods of three minutes each are played. If the match is still tied at the end of overtime, free throws are executed, the number of which is equal to the minimum number of registered players.
Each game is governed by two game referees, four goal judges, one scorer, one timer, one ten-second timer, and one shot recorder. At all major competitions two ten-second timers are required. During the game, spectators must remain absolutely silent so that players can follow the direction of the ball. Spectators may however applaud or cheer after a goal is scored and at the end of each half.
Click here to view the rules of goalball
Download the IBSA rules for Goalball as a MIcrosoft Word file
Calendar of main competitive events
To view an updated calendar on the upcoming Goalball events click here to visit the paralympic site
Records / Landmarks
To view results from past Goalball events click here to visit the paralympic site
Goalball Subcommittee 2002-2006
2802 Georgia St.
Muskogee, Oklahoma 74403
Phone: 918-683-0338 (home); 918-781-8200 (work)