Ein Bild auf dem die beiden Blindenreporter vom VfL Wolfsburg auf ihrem Platz sitzen.
30.12.2018
English News

"If I don't speak, these fans are blind again"

15 years of reporting for the blind at VfL.

Ein Bild auf dem die beiden Blindenreporter vom VfL Wolfsburg auf ihrem Platz sitzen.

"The Green-Whites are moving the ball around well before a foul on Renato Steffen leads to a free-kick. The referee is taking out the vanishing spray and the visitors are setting up a wall, about 35 metres out, slightly left of centre. Maximilian Arnold grabs the ball and although Admir Mehmedi is also interested in taking the free-kick, Arnold hits it but sees his fierce drive blocked." 

It's 0-0 at the Volkswagen Arena, where approximately 25,000 fans have witnessed VfL's positive start at home to SC Freiburg. Although some visually impaired supporters in the stands are unable to see Bruno Labbadia's men play, they can still follow the action on the pitch thanks to Paul Beßler, who has been reporting on the Wolves' home games for the blind community for the last 15 years. 

"If I don't speak, these fans are blind again," said the 73-year-old, for whom the Freiburg match was his 350th as a reporter for the blind. His first, against Bayer Leverkusen, was back in 2003. The distinction between a reporter and a commentator is significant here because he gives an account of even the smallest details, with positional descriptions particularly important. Simply saying left or right is not enough; more is needed and context must be given, so the names of the terraces – the main stand, away stand, north stand and the Wölfi end – are key indicators. The reporter has to relate exactly where the ball is, how the players are performing and what the referee is doing.

Für jeden ist Platz in der Volkswagen Arena - Auch für Blinde, die das Spiel dank unserer Blindenreporter live erleben können. 5 blinde Menschen sitzen und hören im Stadion

Seeing with your ears 

As this style of reporting is so demanding, there are always two people on duty who alternate every five minutes. Beßler started out working alongside Florian Kneifel, but now goes on air with 23-year-old Marcel Meyer, and the pair get along very well despite the 50-year age difference. "I'm an analogue worker, but Marcel works digitally," Beßler said. Whereas Beßler does his match preparation by reading newspapers, Meyer goes online. 
Alexandra Bienert sits in block A, row 9 at every VfL home game. The 46-year-old was born blind but can access the Volkswagen Arena virtually without hindrance thanks to her parking permit right outside the stadium. "We don't have to walk a great distance and we feel well looked after here," she said. "Paul's been our voice for a long time and we like him."

Vorsfelde native Angelika Krüger, who has had a VfL season ticket since 2004 and particularly enjoys the stadium atmosphere, listens to matches unfolding on her headphones: "It feels like I'm in the thick of the action. Paul and Marcel have very pleasant voices and their words help me to imagine what's happening out on the pitch. That helps me visualise what's going on. Their descriptions are so vivid and emotional that everyone feels like they're sitting pitchside."

An average of ten visually impaired fans use the service Beßler and Meyer provide voluntarily at every Wolfsburg home game in the Bundesliga. "This project is one of the most important of all our social commitments," said VfL Managing Director Dr. Tim Schumacher. "Our fundamental aim is to make it as uncomplicated as possible for people with a disability to attend a match at our stadium."

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