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2016 Rio Paralympics: Wang Yafeng seeks podium finish at 2020 Tokyo Games

Reporter: Peter Koveos 丨 CCTV.com

09-22-2016 15:43 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 Rio Paralympic Games

Among the athletes honored at the Great Hall of People was Wang Yafeng. He is the midfielder and captain of China's national blind football team, and helped the squad make it all the way to the semi-finals of the Rio Games. But as Peter Koveos tells us, he has bigger goals for the next Paralympics.

Wang Yafeng is a three-time Paralympian, and has been a member of the national team since 2006. That was the year China established its first football 5-a-side team, as it was preparing for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

"In 2005, China began selecting players from every province, and that's how I was chosen to the team in 2006. We started from nothing, both the coach and players had no experience in the sport at all. We explored the game ourselves through practicing and competing. That includes how to dribble the ball, and shoot, and all other technical aspects of the game," he said.

China had a surprisingly good start in its debut at the 2008 Paralympics, defeating Argentina, England and Spain, making it all the way to the final, before losing the title contest to Brazil 2-1. Their efforts made headlines in China, and inspired many in the country. This was surprising to most, because before football, the players were often ignored.

"Because I was born in a village, people would discriminate against me, because of my lack of vision. When I was a child, few children would play with me. When I was seven or eight years old, I went to a school for the blind, it was at that time that I become more social, and began interacting with others," Wang said.

By picking up the sport of blind football, Wang and his teammates not only cooperate on the field, but off it as well. The sport is not easy, as the players need to use their ears as well as their feet. The ball is equipped with a noise-making device. Team members have to shout in order to avoid crashing into each other. Wang Yafeng and his teammates have been communicating well, taking third spot at the 2010 World Championships and gold at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Para Games.

"The blind football players and their performance really touched me, I think they deserve the highest respect from all of us, and we should learn from them," said Zhang Haidi, China Chef de Mission.

But for the captain of the team and one of its most experieced players, the result in Rio is not ideal.

"This time we travelled a long way to Rio, we faced several challenges -- including the climate, jet lag, even the food we ate. I think in blind football, our opponents are getting better, every result is possible considering the uncertainty of the sport," Wang said.

The 26-year-old veteran who is dubbed as "China's Messi" by fans on the internet, hopes he has another chance to compete at the next Paralympics in Tokyo and help his squad reach the podium in the Japanese capital.

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