Washington and Lee senior Matt Simpson has already had an exciting summer, and it’s only going to continue on Aug. 18, when Matt competes in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the United States National Goalball team in the Great Lions Cup featuring the world’s national teams.
Goalball is a sport designed for athletes who, like Matt, are visually impaired. Invented in Austria after World War II, the game was intended to help rehabilitate blinded war veterans. Competitors try to throw a ball embedded with bells into the opponents’ goal. The players use the sound of the bells to judge the position and movement of the ball. Games consist of two 12-minute halves, and partially sighted players compete with blindfolds to level the playing field.
As many as 40 countries field national teams, and Matt had already earned an international title when he played for the victorious U.S. 19-and-under team in 2009. This will be his first adult competition.
In June, Matt and his teammates on the Atlanta Force competed in the Goalball National Championships at SUNY-Brockport, where they advanced through a field of about 80 teams to reach the gold-medal match against two-time defending champion Pennsylvania Venom. With the score tied 11-11 in the waning seconds, Pennsylvania was charged with a foul, and Matt’s penalty shot with three seconds left brought Atlanta the crown.
Matt’s father, Hal, coached the team. He told the Smyrna-Vinings Patch: “It’s not the Super Bowl or the World Series, but in their world, it is. In the world of blind athletics, this is the biggest thing.”