Saturday 03 December 2022, 06:45

Audio descriptive commentary makes Qatar 2022 accessible for blind fans

  • Service provides blind and partially sighted fans with a detailed account of what is happening in the stadium

  • Fans simply need to download the FIFA Interpreting app on their personal devices

  • Available in Arabic and English, it and can be accessed in the stadium or at home

Faisal Kohaji has been a football fan for as long as he can remember – and being blind has not stopped him from enjoying the beautiful game. However, his ability to enjoy matches has improved markedly during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ thanks to the availability of audio descriptive commentary in Arabic for the first time. “In the past, if I went to a stadium, I would have to rely on the commentary of a friend sitting beside me in the stands, or on the non-descriptive commentary on TV, if I’m watching at home,” said Al Kohaji, a 33-year-old lawyer who works in the energy sector in Qatar.

Faisal Al Kohaji enjoys audio descriptive commentary at Al Bayt Stadium during the FIFA Arab Cup. Image courtesy of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee.

Audio descriptive commentary provides blind and partially sighted fans with a detailed account of what is happening in the stadium, including where the ball is on the pitch, players’ facial expressions and what is happening in the stands. After arriving at the game, fans simply need to download the FIFA Interpreting app (Apple/Google Play) on their personal devices and use their own headphones to listen to the dedicated commentary. The service is also available in English and can be accessed whether you are in the stadium or at home. “Thanks to this service, I’m now able to feel the excitement of being in the stands at a World Cup match while following exactly what’s happening on the pitch. It’s an amazing experience,” added Al Kohaji, who was speaking during the Qatar versus Netherlands match at Al Bayt Stadium.

Prior to the tournament, a number of commentators were trained by tournament organisers in conjunction with Hamad Bin Khalifa University and the Center for Access to Football in Europe. Aspiring commentators honed their skills during last year’s FIFA Arab Cup™ before 18 Arabic speakers were chosen to provide commentary during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

One of the commentators, Ahmed Saeed, can be heard regularly on beIN SPORTS, commentating on motorsport events. “I wanted to make sure that I can support with making this tournament as inclusive as possible. This is a sport that is loved globally and everybody has the right to enjoy it,” said Saeed. He added: “As a commentator, this experience has taught me the importance of providing a detailed account of what’s happening. I will take this training with me and implement it in my field, and I look forward to seeing audio descriptive commentary in sporting events in the future.”

Beyond football, audio descriptive commentary can be used in different settings, including cinemas and theatres. “What we have achieved during the tournament will have a long-lasting impact on the blind community in Qatar. We are already seeing audio descriptive commentary being used in art shows, which is a sign of great things to come,” added Al Kohaji, who is also the Chairperson of the Qatar Social and Cultural Club for the Blind. Learn more about the FIFA World Cup Sustainability Progress Report: Accessibility.