Virginia man earns a spot on U.S. Blind Soccer team: 'Focus on the positive. Just keep moving.'

Posted at 1:58 PM, Nov 17, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Two years ago, Antoine Craig was attempting to represent the USA as a Paralympian in sprinting. Even though retinitis pigmentosa had taken virtually all of his sight, it did not take Craig's determination or competitiveness.

"You can't focus on the negative. Focus on the positive. Just keep moving and you'll get there," Craig said in a 2020 interview with CBS 6.

Craig went to the Paralympic Trials and finished second.

While a silver medal was nice, it wasn't good enough for a spot on the U.S. National Team.

It left Craig at something of a crossroads in his athletic career.

"After that experience, I had to figure out what I was going to do. Was I going to retire or what? I was down for a little bit and one of my friends said why don't you try soccer? And I was like, soccer?" he said.

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Soccer for the blind has been an Olympic sport since 2004, but the U.S. has never fielded a team.

Craig's athleticism encouraged him to try out for a sport he never played.

"It took a lot of work to learn how to slow down and focus more on quickness instead of speed," he said. "I had to change my track drills a little bit to more agility drills."

The ball is slightly smaller than a regulation soccer ball.

It's also heavier and contains beads inside that rattle when the ball is in motion.

"Since we're blind, we have to keep the ball kinda close to us," he said.

The field is smaller too, just 40 feet by 20 feet with walls.

Guides and coaches around the field help players orient themselves.

And just as in the sighted version, there is a lot of verbal communication between the players.

"We need a ton of communication. We have to communicate where we are. Even a defender approaching a player that has the ball, one of the biggest calls we have to make is 'void,'" he said. "If you don't call the word void and let the offensive player know that the defender is coming, then that's a foul."

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The goals are smaller and teams use a sighted goalie.

The players' ability to siphon out the noise and directions being called out directly relates to how well they perform on the field.

"The most challenging part, as you might imagine, is listening for the ball as a defender and also listening for your coach all at the same time. It gets a little hairy at times," he said.

Craig attended the team USA Selection camp in San Diego earlier this fall and was picked for the U.S.'s first-ever team in the sport.

Being in a team sport as opposed to an individual pursuit has given Craig a new athletic experience he's never really had before.

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