Goalball is a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment. Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opponents’ goal. The ball is thrown by hand and never kicked. Using ear-hand coordination, originating as a rehabilitation exercise, the sport has no able-bodied equivalent.

Played indoors, usually on a volleyball court, games consist of twelve-minute halves (formerly ten-minute halves). Teams alternate throwing or rolling the ball from one end of the playing area to the other, and players remain in the area of their own goal in both defence and attack. Players must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Eyeshades allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players. Eyepatches may be worn under eyeshades to ensure complete coverage of the eye, and prevent any vision should the eyeshades become dislodged.


Goalball was originally devised in 1946 by the Austrian Hanz Lorenzen and German Sepp Reindle as a means of assisting the rehabilitation of visually impaired World War II veterans.

Goalball gradually evolved into a competitive game during the 1950s and 1960s. It was eventually nominated as a demonstration sport at the 1972 Summer Paralympics in HeidelbergWest Germany, and became a Paralympic Games sport in at the 1976 Summer Paralympics in Toronto.The sport’s first world championship was held in Austria in 1978.

In 2011, the long-standing IBSA Goalball Subcommittee sought to separate from IBSA and form a new international body, the World Goalball Association. This was for several reasons. IBSA responded by appointing a new committee.

As of 2017, there were 81 competing nations and 270 international referees.



Infractions are generally punished by the loss of possession to the other team

  • Premature throw – throwing the ball before the official has called ‘play’.
  • Pass out – while passing between members of the team, the ball crosses the sideline.
  • A ball over – the ball rebounds off a defending player, the crossbar or goalposts and crosses back over half-court.


A penalty throw may be awarded for:

  • Ten second penalty – A team takes more than ten seconds to throw the ball back over the centre line.
  • Delay of game – This can be caused by many different things. A coach reporting the wrong numbers for substitutions, a team not arriving in time for the coin toss that precedes the game, or too many or too few players taking the court.
  • Illegal defence – This is called if a defender makes contact with the ball while no part of the body is touching the team area.
  • Short ball – The ball fails to reach the opponent’s team area when thrown.
  • High ball – The ball does not touch the thrower’s landing zone when thrown.
  • Long ball – The ball does not touch the neutral zone when thrown.
  • Eyeshades – Touching eyeshades without permission.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct – This can be a variety of things, from arguing with an official to pounding the floor and swearing
  • Noise – Unnecessary noise by the offensive team that prevents the defence from tracking the ball while the ball is travelling down the court.
  • Illegal coaching – coaching from the bench during play or after an official has said ‘Quiet please’ with intentions of continuing or starting play. From 2006, rules allowed coaching from the bench during an ‘official time-out’.

In a penalty situation a single player is required to defend the entire goal for one throw. The player chosen is determined by the penalty. For instance, a high ball or illegal defence penalty is defended by the player who committed the penalty. On the other hand, an illegal coaching penalty is defended by a player chosen by the coach of the throwing team (previously the last recorded thrower of that team).



Blacked out eyeshades are a requirement.  Referees check eyeshades whenever a player comes on court (start of each half and substitutions), and no light must be visible to the referee when held up to the face.  All vents and the lens have to be completely blacked out.  Make sure there is good foam padding around the goggles, as there cannot be any gaps in contact with the face – in particular check how they fit around your nose.

You can make your own Goalball eyeshades by modifying ski goggles.Purpose made Goalball eyeshades are more expensive.  Target eyeshades are available direct from. They ship internationally.How do you clean eyeshades?  They can get very sweaty and potentially very smelly!  Some players throw them in the washing machine – this is OK if it’s a cheap pair but not good for the longevity of the eyeshades, and possibly not that good for the washing machine either.Rinse the shades under cold water, wiping the inside of the lens and squeezing the foam and strap.  Towel dry and spray the foam and straps with Extra strength Febreze with Ambi Pur, this stuff is fantastic!  Wipe the inside of the lens and leave the shades sitting foam side up to dry.

Protection: Knee and elbow pads are necessary for everyone.The Predator kneepads give more protection.  Nike volleyball kneepads are heavier duty but more expensive, available from Rebel Sport.


  • U.S. Association of Blind Athletes serves as the National Governing Body for the Paralympic sport of Goalball.
  • International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball.


Eiko Kakehata

Amanda dennis