Latin America & Caribbean

Rio Paralympics: Algeria goalball team 'did not boycott' games

Amanda Dennis of the USA dives to block the ball in the women's Goalball on day four of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Future Arena on 11 September 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US goalball team in action against Japan

The Algerian women's goalball team have arrived in Rio after missing their first two games against the US and Israel.

Their absence led to suspicions they boycotted the match against Israel because of longstanding tensions between the countries.

But a team spokesman insisted they had had traffic issues, and said he was "astonished" by the accusation.

Goalball is a sport for the visually impaired involving a ball with bells.

"I wonder why the team would boycott the Paralympics tournament that it has prepared so hard for and which the Algerian state has spent so much money on," spokesman Abdelkader Kelfat told the AFP news agency.

He said the team had suffered a travel problem caused by a missed connection in Rome last Monday, when they left their training camp in Poland.

Algeria had been due to play Israel on Saturday, and the US on Friday, five days after their departure from Poland.

Goalball at the Rio 2016 Paralympics: All you need to know

A beginner's guide to goalball

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Paralympics started with a huge opening ceremony in the Maracana stadium in Rio on Wednesday

'Politics seeping into Paralympics'

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) says it is investigating why the team failed to arrive in Rio on time.

"They are still sticking to their story that they suffered the worst transport issues known to man. Whether we believe it is a question mark and we are looking into it,", IPC spokesman Craig Spence said.

Suspicions that the delay was politically motivated were widely reported over the weekend.

"It is a great shame that politics has also seeped into the Paralympics," the Times of Israel quoted the head of the Israeli Paralympic Committee, Danny Ben-Abu, as saying.

Image copyright Getty Images

What is goalball?

Three blind or partially blind players on each team wear eye shades to make conditions equal.

Each team have a low, wide goal on one end of the field.

The players try to score goals with a ball containing bells to help the players orientate themselves.

The crowd is asked to remain as silent as possible.

"If, as many people believe, this is a political protest, we can take some form of action against them," Craig Spence says.

"It could be a slap on the wrist, or we could remove the goalball team from the tournament altogether," he added.

In the meantime, both the US and Israel have been awarded a 10-0 win and three points each for the unplayed matches.

The Algerian women's team is next due to play on Monday against Japan and then again on Tuesday against Brazil.

"Fingers crossed they can manage to travel from the (Athletes') Village to the goalball venue in less than six days," joked Mr Spence.

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