Written by By Kate O’Neill
A group of friends went to watch a soccer match at a bar in the village of Poriot, Scotland, a few years ago.
When a powerful header from the back of the net went past their team, it was the final game of three for Stefan Allen and Kirsty Stevenson — but none of their friends had managed to score.
Scottish Goalball teammates Kirsty Stevenson, left, and Stefan Allen were making international news with a combined long-term existence of a staggering 32 years. Courtesy of Kristina Stevenson/SKY NEWS CHINA
With no history of passing the ball, they knew they would lose.
“I had never seen anyone get a shot up into the air but no one got a shot going over the bar so we had no chance of winning,” recalled Allen.
Due to a different set of rules and the fact that the ball is weighed, as well as the competition, Allen and Stevenson were also blindfolded.
“The other players literally blocked us out,” said Stevenson. “We could only see each other’s eyes as we stood there and looked at each other.”
Despite this, in one of the hottest Scottish summers in decades, they managed to avoid being caught and distracted enough to lose the match. The pair have previously reached fourth in the world.
Thanks to Kirsty Stevenson and Stefan Allen, Scotland is back in the Paralympic competition. Credit: Kristina Stevenson/SKY NEWS CHINA
Having set their sights on playing the game as a teens, Allen and Stevenson, who met in the 1990s while working on the Dumfries Road-Bridge near Dumfries, excelled at it.
“As a teenager I had a handicap that I never really overcame,” said Stevenson. “I had a learning disability so I could really only work in 1 and 10-year projects.”
“I’ve got some strong contacts and I started out on working to 10.”
Meanwhile, Allen can remember only five times in his life that he left his mother’s bedside, with an iron (or medical) grip to hold on to during a journey, “but in goalball, when you go to the goal you’re free.”
Despite the physical and mental challenges, they both agreed that the camaraderie they build up during the game is what makes it worthwhile.
The group’s work in the community means they use their platform to help disadvantaged children. Credit: Christine Innes/SKY NEWS CHINA
“It’s such a great game,” said Allen. “We all get on really well. We have this awesome group of 20 people who get on so well and the camaraderie just really pulls everyone together.”
Once dealing with their long-term interests in the sport, the duo now use their commitment to raise awareness of the amazing work they are doing with disadvantaged children.
Fashion-forward GB ambassadors
They each bring very different strengths to the game. For example, Allen is great with handling the ball and communicating the game, while Stevenson is one of the fastest goalkeepers in the world.
“If the ball is above your head she can go and get it in very close to the goal,” said Allen.
The ladies are also super-fit and the GB team have released a third fashion collaboration, with loads of funky sports-inspired pieces, ahead of the upcoming games.
Despite the pressure, these softies have managed to avoid playing in the tournament’s traditional 11-minute clock.
“I really want to avoid having to time-set every ball going forward,” said Allen. “That’s when nerves start to get the better of me and I’ll get annoyed at myself for not making saves.”
“We have to switch off and just enjoy the game.”