AEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil fan who is deaf, blind follows World Cup with help

Leave a comment

SAO PAULO (AP) Like fans all over soccer-mad Brazil, Carlos Junior followed every move the national team made on the field Monday in its 2-0 victory over Mexico.

[ MORE: Belgium scores stoppage-time winner to top Japan ]

He wiped his brow every time Mexico closed in but failed to score. He banged the table or a drum when Brazil took a shot and missed. And he jumped up and down and hugged friends when Neymar finally put the ball in the net in the 51st minute.

But Junior did not watch or listen to the game the way most Brazilians did. Instead, the 31-year-old massage therapist who is deaf and blind experienced the match with the help of interpreters using touch communication and a model soccer field to recount the passes, goals and fouls of the national team.

Junior’s love of soccer and his way of following the World Cup moved many in Latin America’s largest nation after a friend posted a video of him keeping up with Brazil’s group game against Costa Rica. The video caught the attention of national and international media and has been shared and seen by millions online.

“The moment you do this, you show that a deaf and blind person is the same as any other person,” Junior, who communicates with tactile sign language, said of the video and its wide viewership.

On Monday, Junior and a handful of other people with sight and hearing losses gathered at a cultural center in Sao Paulo to follow the game with the help of interpreters.

Junior has followed soccer for as long as he can remember. He has Usher syndrome, which causes hearing and vision problems. While born deaf, he was able to see as a child and even played goalkeeper on a team for deaf youth. At 14, his vision began to deteriorate, and he was fully blind by 23. He continued to cheer for his beloved Sao Paulo with the help of his father.

“Before my dad would take my hand and say, `Ehh! Look there! A goal! A goal!’ But information was missing,” Junior said. “I wanted to know if the ball hit the crossbar, what side was it on, the right side or the left side.”

It was then that Helio Fonseca de Araujo, who is a sign language interpreter, proposed the idea of using a model field. De Araujo had seen Maria Stella Nunes speak once about the field she built for her husband, who is deaf and has low vision and had asked for the model. Nunes interpreted Monday’s game for her husband, Carlos Roberto Lopes Nunes, at the same cultural center where Junior followed the game.

Araujo then improved upon the original idea, building a bigger field and adding in the idea of using a second interpreter to give even more game information in real time.

The system they have developed is this: Junior places his hands on the interpreter’s. One hand represents the ball, the other the player who has possession. The interpreter moves his hands around the model field to indicate the action. Meanwhile, another interpreter draws on Junior’s back, communicating which team and even which player (by tracing the player’s number) has the ball. Through his haptic, or touch, communication, the interpreter can also note fouls, yellow or red cards, blocks and saves.

During the regular season, Junior often makes do by following games via text summaries posted online that a device translates into Braille for him. But for major games, he calls on de Araujo and others like him. The technique is so good that Junior even knew in previous games when Neymar fell down, or when Brazil coach Tite hurt himself while celebrating the team’s win over Costa Rica.

“Even though they (deaf and blind people) don’t have access to lots of information, that doesn’t hinder their lives,” de Araujo said. “If society adapts to them, they can live normally.”

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

VOTE: Premier League March Madness Final Four

AP
Leave a comment

Our Premier League March Madness tournament enters the Final Four stage on Thursday with two very intriguing ties.

After a wild Elite Eight which saw Everton and Sheffield United upset Chelsea and Man City respectively, we have two wonderful Final Four games set up as 20 Premier League teams are now down to 16.

#1 Liverpool host #12 Everton as the Toffees have upset Man United and Chelsea to reach the Final Four. #7 Sheffield United and #6 Wolves go head-to-head for a spot in the final as they continue to excite neutrals. These encounters will be close.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ]

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and if there will be more upsets late on. After all, this is the Premier League…

Okay, vote below (until 6:30 p.m. ET) for the two Final Four matches as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues!

Ronaldinho to leave jail for luxury hotel arrest in Paraguay

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Retired soccer star Ronaldinho was released from a high-security jail in Paraguay on Tuesday after more than a month, but was ordered to serve house arrest at a luxury hotel while he’s investigated for using a fake passport to enter the country.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Ronaldinho, the Brazilian former FIFA player of the year, and his brother Roberto de Assis were also told to pay bail of $800,000 each.

Ronaldinho, who helped lead Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, was jailed on March 6 after entering the small South American country with a false Paraguayan passport. He told local authorities in a hearing that the document was a gift from a Brazilian businessman, Wilmondes Sousa Liria, who was also jailed.

“I decided to put them in house arrest because the investigation is now well advanced, differently from the situation one month ago,” Judge Gustavo Amarilla said when issuing the ruling.

Ronaldinho had his Brazilian passport seized at home due to an investigation into alleged environmental crimes, but the document was returned to him in September. One month later he played in a friendly in Israel.

If convicted, the former Barcelona star could spend up to five years in jail. Fourteen people are being investigated in the case.

Ronaldinho came to Paraguay to promote his autobiography. He was jailed in an improvised penitentiary in the south of Asunción, which is used for 150 dangerous criminals, including convicts of drug dealing, corruption and rape. During his stay he played soccer with inmates and took pictures with them that were shared on social media.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.