Not so long ago, I showed you that even legally blind people can enjoy our sport. I have now tried to contact them and am awaiting a reply.
Here is the original article with the translation.
It is a nice spring Saturday afternoon. Ten people with black glasses get off a trolley bus on the trolley bus stop by the Psychiatry Ward of Opava. One of them is carrying a large guitar case and the others carry large bags. They hold each other and move by the slow walk of people who cannot see along the fence of the Psychiatry Ward. Only very few people walking past them realize that in about an hour, those people are going to turn into an airsoft team and will fight till late night on the nearby shooting range at Svat Anna. Blind people of Opava fell in love with airsoft and founded the first blind people airsoft team in the Czech Republic. They call themselves Opava Airsoft Moles.
"It may surpise you, how people that cannot see can play airsoft. I was inspired by a motto of a paraplegic, who once said that before he was put on a wheel chair, he wanted to do a thousand things, but did not have time for them. He only discovered after his accident that he can actually do only nine hundred nighty nine things out of that thousand. He said he does not think about what he cannot not do, but rather of what can do and that he tries as hard as he can. It is about the point of view on your life, so why cannot people who cannot see, play soldiers," sais one of the members of the event, Radek Bečka.
It all began with a stick in the middle of a field
Airsoft is a game similar to paintball. Players protect their eyes with safety glasses or masks nad shoot each other with light plastic bbs from guns that are often realistic firearms replicas. Until now, most people thought that good sight is necessary for this type of game.
Vclav Fier, a young masseur from the Opava Charity came with the idea he is pretty known as a weapon expert. "I have heard about airsoft for the first time from a friend at work. His sister later told me about paintball that she played a couple times. I love weapons since I was a child and all this laid in my head. I started to talk to people about it, and everyone told me, how is it possible, you cannot see, so you cannot shoot, it is impossible," he says. He bought some cheap plastic guns and tried how they work at home and what can be done with them."We went to a field near our town to try them out. I stuck my white stick into the field and put a box on it as a target. A friend of mine started shooting at it to give me a hint of where it is. I took the other gun and by hearing where the shots hit, I began to shoot as well. After I hit the box a couple time from close range, I moved a little bit further. I went home thinking about if I can hit a box while orienting by hearing, why couldn't I hit other players, who would shoto back at me," Fier describes.
He was inspired by his Boy Scout camps, where thanks to jingle bells and beepers attached to their bodies, people would play different games. "I kept asking myself how to get others to play. With a gun, that has to be cocked after each shot, sim people might find it boring. I later found replicas of the Israeli Micro Uzi sub-machine gun, and when the retail price dropped, I told my friends to eventually buy them. I decided to go all in and bought ten of these."
Where to find a place in Opava that is safe for blind people and interesting for gameplay? While walking around the town, Fier came upon the shooting range at Svat Anna, which is led by the head coach of the Opava Ostroj Shooters' Club, Oldřich Gavenda. "I got a phone call asking if it is safe to shoot htere, and I porposed I would meet them here at four o'clock, and they should be safe here. At that time, I still did not know they cannot see.When they had their first event, I was on a real steel shooting event in Pilsen. At half pas nine I called the manager of the shooting range and asked her how it went. And she said: She said it is still going on. I did not understand how they still could play while it was dark outside. And she replies that they do not need to see. Gavenda, as an experienced veteran, has seen many things in the real steel shooting world. "This is, however, for the first time I have met someone who cannot see and yet comes to a shooting range. I wouldn't have tought they could play such a game," he says.
A memory of the military draft
Radek Bečka, who got the founder of the Opava team into airsoft, enjoys war games. " It was a very interesting experience for me, as I can still see a little bit. I can warmly recommend this sport even to those who still see. You will sharpen your other senses that you usually only use as an accessory." He too was confronted with the distrust of those wh thought it is impossible to play withouth sight. He tries to lead his team as tactically as possible, he makes up interesting ruses on how to defend the base, or how to conquer it.
One of the best members of the team is Oleg Peterek, who bought himself a nice AK-47. He can offer his team mates some good support fire. "it is sort of like a return to my youth, when I still could see and could play soldiers. But this is much more interesting. You shoot into the darkness and do everything by hearing." Peterek lost his sight almost ten years ago and unlike most of his peers, he has experience with military draft. "I used to work in Prostějov as a plane engineer. I go the AK as a memory to the draft times, where I used the Vz. 58," he adds.
Airsoft with the non-seeing, as they call themselves, is being played by their sighted friends as well. Both boys and girls. Zuzana Chamulov is one of the fighters who cannot see. This fragile girl is one of the most active and airsoft is not her only hobby. In a couple days, she is getting ready fot one of the most challenging endurance events, Bicycle Marathon Silesia. "I am going to ride with my friend over thirty miles on a tandem bike. We may not finish the marathon at all, we might walk for part of the event beside the bike or we might end up as last, but why not try it? We are encouraging each other that even if we had to carry that tandem bike on our shoulders, we are going to finish the event. Just like Cool Runnings," she laughs.
And here comes an interview with one of the members of the group.
We know, how you got the idea, but did you have support of your families when starting to airsoft?
Since all our members already have their own lives, none of us had to consult this with our families. In our team, there are women and men playing together, and there are two marital couples, we are a mixed team. The feelings of our families are mixed as well. In some, you can see disbelef, support from others, and some just don't show what they think of us. The interest is not as big as to participate in our games, but it may be given by the difference of age as well as geographical location. We all come from different places but meet in Opava our families live outside the city.
Do you have any support from local SONS (local association of blind people)? In one of your earlier emails, you mentioned that some of the Organizations did not care that much.
Opava SONS (a forum uniting blind people and people with sight disabilities) paid us the shooting range fees and mentioned us in their circular letter. In the near future we would like to get along with other organizations uniting sight empaired people in the matter of searching other airsofters. On the BraillNet.cz there was a conference with the airsoft as a main theme founded.
How do you enjoy beating your enjoy shooting your seeing opponents?
We do enjoy that, but try not to abuse it. It is true that they have the disadvantage as they cannot orientate by their hearing as well as we can. It can still be a great adventure, however try to navigate only by hearing.
How do people generally react when they see you play? It is not very usual to see such a spectacle. Do you get many negative reactions?
Some have not even heard of this sport, other just turn their heads in disbelief, how we can achieve that, how do we manage to do so, how we can move. There are also people who want to try to play with us, which we enjoy. There was the interest from the side of the Metropolitan Police of Opava, who really seemed to enjoy it and will come again. On the dark side, there are individuals who thinks someone pays us to play, which is terribly wrong.
Why do you think you are the only such team in the world? Is it because other people with vision disadvantage are ashamed to play airsoft or is it just that nobody has thought of that?
I am pretty sure nobody has thought of putting such a team together. At least,we have not find anyone on the internet.
There are legally blind people playing in the US as well. Do you think they should unite and form teams?
In teams, they can play much more effectively than as individuals. Another reason is that they will have much more opportunities to exchange experience from everyday lives.
You just became known of in the United States and other parts of the world. How does that feel?
Well, naturally it is a great feeling, especially that o whole group came out of this idea, we managed to get registered by the LOS Physical Education Union of Opava, so we are registered sportsmen. We would like to exist as an example for other disabled people and as a living proof of everything being possible with enough good will.
What is the speed of the game? Is it fast paced or slow? Are you limited by your disadvantage?
Well the speed of the game depends on the number of people taking part in the game, the mode of shooting (single rounds or bursts) and on the difficulty and size of the terrain.We have to carefully prepare the terrain, and then we have to lead the players over it and show them around field.
Is there anything else you would like to say to other airsofters? Many of them play it with a lack of enthusiasm and I am pretty sure they put much less energy and good will into it than you do.
Keep your eyes peeled and play it safe, unless you want to end up in our unit.
What do I think about that? It is a great idea to show those who dislike airsoft, that it is not a sport where people cause pain to each other. This way, blind people can improve their orientation, improve their motor skills and reflexes.
This is a good way to improve the overall thoughts of the airsoft skeptics. It has become not only a sport for those who live "normal" lives, but also for people with disabilities.