Meet the Lionel Messi of Blind Fútbol
Silvio Velo was born without sight, but that didn’t stop this gifted Argentinian athlete from becoming an absolute legend.
Photos by Javier Sauras
It’s a balmy fall evening in Rio de Janeiro. The robust crowd within the Olympic Tennis Center, here to see a unique soccer contest, is unnaturally silent. The referees remind the audience to keep their voices down with a wave of their hand and a polite “silent please” projected over the loudspeaker each time they move to put the ball in play. The participants on both teams must be able to hear the ball, which contains loose ball bearings that rattle when it moves. Still, in the stands, waves of people quietly dance, take photos and shoot video of the action on the field. Silvio Velo, 45 and blind since birth, is about to shoot a free kick for Argentina less than thirty feet away from the goal. It’s a sizable opportunity for the men dressed in sky-blue and white stripes. They’re locked in a 0-0 tie against their red-clad counterparts from Iran, and there’s just five minutes left on the clock. The winner of this semifinal battle will play the Brazilian team for t…