National goalball stars Dan and Laura celebrate success on and off the court

Fen Tigers Goalball Team training session. Left: Joe Roper, Oscar Harrison, Dom Roper, Laura Perry,

Fen Tigers Goalball Team training session. Left: Joe Roper, Oscar Harrison, Dom Roper, Laura Perry, Dan Roper, Filmon Eyassu and Abdul Ladhefiri. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Goalball may not be a sport that everyone has heard of, but a couple from March are hoping to thrust it into the limelight – starting in Fenland.

Goalball, devised in 1946, is a sport designed specifically for the visually impaired, with participants competing in teams of three, trying to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opponents’ goal.

Teams alternate throwing or rolling the ball from one end of the playing area to the other, and players remain in the area of their own goal in both defence and attack. Players, who must wear eye patches, use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball.

Dan Roper and Laura Perry have starred for Great Britain on the national goalball stage; travelling around the world to take part in tournaments and competitions, and saw moving to Fenland as the perfect opportunity to launch their very own club – the Fen Tigers.

The Tigers, who train every Saturday morning at Neale-Wade Academy, have only been a fully-fledged club since January, but have already experienced success, scooping multiple medals at tournaments across the country.

“We wanted to set something up as soon as we moved here,” said Laura, 28.

“We only started six months ago, but we’re going from strength to strength.”

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The Tigers have shot straight to the top tier of the sport, and they made themselves right at home at the highest level by coming second in an intermediate tournament in Cambridge last month.

Laura said: “All the players are absolutely loving it, and they’ve started the season so well.

“We’ve got five players at the moment, but we want to grow and get as many involved as possible.”

The Tigers’ coaches are also celebrating, after receiving a cash boost from the National Lottery to fund their own national dreams.

Dan and Laura have been recognised as two of the sport’s most promising stars, and have been given funding to help towards their travel costs, training equipment and accommodation when on national duty.

“I don’t think we’d be able to do it without the funding,” Laura said.

“Dan and I travel so much – I’ve recently been at a competition in Malmo, Sweden, and Dan’s been in Poland – so it all adds up and can be very expensive.

“The money will help so much, and we’re very grateful for the backing.”

For more information on the Fen Tigers, search ‘Fen Tigers Goalball’ on Facebook.