Tokyo Paralympics

What is Goalball at the Tokyo Paralympics? Game Rules Explained

Out of the 112 countries competing in goalball, Team USA is the most decorated with 12 medals, including three golds

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The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics are underway with athletes from around the world competing in 22 sports, one of them being goalball.

Goalball? Yes, goalball.

The goalball competition kicked off on Wednesday, Aug. 25 with preliminary matches and will conclude Friday, Sept. 3 with medal being awarded to the top three teams.

Team USA’s men’s team beat Brazil 8-6 on Thursday in their first matchup, following the women’s 6-4 victory over Brazil on Wednesday. Both teams advanced to the next round of competition.

Goalball is considered one of the oldest and most popular events in the Paralympics – but what exactly is it and how do you play it?

What is goalball? A quick history lesson

Goalball is a team sport for blind and visually impaired athletes. Origins of the game date back to World War II as way to rehabilitate blind veterans and keep them active.

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Goalball became the first Paralympics team sport for athletes with vision impairments 75 years ago when it was officially inducted as event at Toronto 1976.

Although the game was invented by Austrian Hanz Lorrenzen and German Sett Reindle, Americans now dominate the sport. Officials say US women are the most successful team in the sport’s history, clenching six Paralympic and eight World Championship medals.

Out of the 112 countries that compete in the sport, Team USA is the most decorated with 12 medals – including three golds – between both the men’s and women’s teams.

The Paralympic Opening Ceremony took place in the same empty National Stadium as the opening and closing ceremonies of the recently completed Tokyo Olympics.

Rules: How to play goalball?

The object of the game is to get a ball past the opposing team and into their net by hurling it from one end of the court to the other. The opposing team must block the ball from entering their net by throwing their bodies across the floor.

The game ball is about the size of a basketball and has several bells inside, so the blinded athletes know where it is.

All players must be legally blind and wear eyeshades at all time to ensure level competition.

Due to the extreme importance of sound, audience members must always remain absolutely quiet during the game. Although, the stands will be mostly empty this year due to extreme precautions being taken to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What is a long ball in goalball?

The game of goalball has two types of penalties, personal and team.

A long ball, for instance, is when the ball does not touch the neutral zone when it is thrown down the court.

Other personal penalties include short ball, high ball, eyeshades, illegal defense, personal delay of game personal unsportsmanlike conduct, and noise.

Team penalties include ten seconds, team delay of game, team unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal coaching, and noise.

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How and where can I stream goalball games?

Many Paralympic events, including goalball, will be streamed live on and the NBC Sports app. Click here for the full schedule of live coverage and highlights.

NBC will air an assortment of sports on the weekends during the Paralympics:

  • Sunday, Aug. 29: 12-1:30 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, Aug. 29: 7-8 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, Sept. 4: 8-9 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, Sept. 5: 7-9 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, Sept. 11: 3-5 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 12: 1:30-3 p.m. ET

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