Paralympics: Silence for Brazil! Crowd at blind soccer struggles with quiet

Fri Sep 9, 2016 1:10pm EDT
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By Stephen Eisenhammer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Brazilian crowd was one of the quietest ever for their national soccer team, but it was still not quiet enough when the ball came into the box in the 29th minute.

With Brazil trailing Morocco 1-0 on Friday, the noise rose effortlessly from a nervous crowd used to cheering on their own, and striker Nonato, unable to hear the jingling bell inside the ball, missed.

"Silence please," the referee called to the stands once more. Brazil's coach shook his head in despair.

Blind five-a-side soccer, where players follow the ball by the rattling it makes as it rolls, may be the only sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where the raucous home crowd is a liability rather than a boon.

From judo to tennis and golf, Brazil's fans ripped up traditional crowd etiquette and brought a loud soccer culture to Olympic sport. Opposition athletes were often booed and chants from an army of yellow shirts deafened venues.

But this arena is different, as green signs asking for quiet attest. The players are totally or almost totally blind and wear eye masks to make sure no one has an advantage.

As the crowd wrestled with how to show their support, the "shhhhs" of fans demanding quiet were often louder than the cheers they were hoping to stop.

"It's so difficult. We're trying but we really want to shout," said Sonia Lima, 54, at half time when the noise level rose with collective relief that silence was, for a few minutes at least, not necessary.   Continued...

2016 Rio Paralympics - Football Soccer - Men's 5-a-side Men's Preliminaries Pool A - Brazil vs Morocco - Olympic Tennis Centre - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 09/09/2016. Moroccan and Brazilian players in action. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes