(Tickets: £20 – Category B, Riverbank Arena)
Described by the Paralympics as: Played outdoors, 7-a-side Football follows FIFA rules, with some changes: each team has seven players; the pitch and goals are smaller; there’s no offside rule; throw-ins can be made with one hand; and each half lasts 30 minutes. Teams are made up of athletes whose coordination is affected when walking and running and each team must include players with varying levels of impairment.
Described by me as: Not a normal 7 a-side slug fest as two teams who could easily play at an excellent level play in enthralling games with some excellent goals scored.
The venue: (I’ve been here before!) The temporary venue hosted the hockey during the Olympics and both 5 and 7 a-side tournaments for the Paralympics. The ground obviously is unchanged since my visit in May except the sign changes for the football tournaments.
The experience: Much like the Paralympic Athletics, the overall atmosphere for the football tournament was excellent. My tickets did get me the top row of the Riverbank Arena which provided some excellent views as usual of the action as well as the overall Olympic Park. While there wasn’t a full 14,000 capacity crowd, everyone there was right up for it and there were a lot of Iranians there to cheer on their boys for the Bronze Medal match. Sadly, not many Brazilians there to see as nice distractions.
During the games, the normal football chanting kicked in which was brilliant as it was like being in a full sized game. As mentioned above, the quality I saw from all 4 sides were top class and both games were good watches for different reasons. Made me wonder why I hadn’t watched any of the tournament before I turned up for these games, the last medals to be decided in the whole of London 2012.
BRONZE MEDAL GAME: Iran 5-0 Brazil –> When you mention Iran and Brazil playing a football match you would normally expect Brazil to cruise home and to be honest, I expected the South Americans to pick up the Bronze medal. Brazil had even started better but Iran did look comfortable in defence. The changing point of the match came on 17 minutes when Atashafrouz opened the scoring and then Iran hit another two in quick succession to make the game look comfortable already. The second half saw Brazil go gun ho attacking but only managed long range efforts which Moslem Khazaeipirsarabi in the Iran goal had easily covered. When Brazil left too much space at the back, Iran added a late two goals from Bakhshi and Mehri to give the scoreline a glossy look.
GOLD MEDAL GAME: Russia 1-0 Ukraine –> A repeat of the Gold Medal match from 2008, this game was a lot more closer, but you couldn’t tell which way it was going to go until Eduard Ramonov’s goal 4 minutes into the 2nd half. Up until then it was Russia who did look the more threatening with Ukraine looking fairly clueless up front. After the goal, Ukraine came into more as you would expect, but Russia easily held them off to get revenge for 2008.
Overall: A brilliant day in the sun, watching some excellent football, with a brilliant atmosphere. This was a top way to finish watching the 2012 Games and to reflect on what was an exceptional month of sporting action and seeing one of the best cities in the World soak it all up. I was honoured to be living here during the Games and I hope to experience somewhere else one day.