The Olympic dream that fires the world’s greatest blind footballer
Silvio Velo plays football every day but he has never seen a ball. He is the leader of a team that has never seen him either. Fans idolise him, although nobody chants his name during the games. Velo is the unknown star of Argentinian football: he has won two World Cups, two Copas America and countless trophies with his club, River Plate.
The Maradona of the Bats was born on 29 May 1971 to a family of little means, open-eyed but unable to appreciate light. When he was a kid, Silvio wanted to do the same things that his brothers were doing: play football, ride a bike... “I played hide-and-seek with my friends, but I never found anyone,” he jokes.
The Paralympic gold medal is the only award that Velo hasn’t yet won. He took silver in Athens 2004 and bronze in Beijing. “It’s going to be one more battle, that’s all,” he said. “The gold medal is a dream that is going to come true when I turn 46. I only have to wait three more years.”
“When I was young I didn’t know about blind football. I played with my friends and my brothers on the neighbourhood pitch, without jingling bell balls. I didn’t care if I was good or bad, I just wanted to play. Then, when I stumbled upon an audible ball, when I found out that there were other blind people playing football too... Try to imagine it. I saw the ball when I heard it.”