Sao Paulo: Like fans all over football-mad Brazil, Carlos Junior also followed every move the national team made on the field as they went past Mexico 2-0 Monday to cruise into the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Russia.
He wiped his brow every time Mexico came close of scoring. He banged the table or a drum when Brazil missed an easy chance. And then he finally jumped up in joy and hugged friends when Neymar gave Brazil the lead 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.
“The moment you do this, you show that a deaf and blind person is equally same as any other person,” Junior said who communicates with tactile sign language.
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. Junior is suffering from Usher Syndrome, a disorder which affects both the hearing and vision.
However, at 14, Junior’s vision began to deteriorate, and he was fully blind when he reached 23. But his passion didn’t deteriorate as 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 Junior came in contact of Helio Fonseca de Araujo, a sign language interpreter who proposed the idea of using a model field. De Araujo had seen Maria Stella Nunes, another interpreter, speak once about the field she built for her husband, Carlos Roberto who is deaf and has low vision and had asked for the model.
The system they have developed is this: Junior places his hands on the interpreter’s. One hand represents the ball, the other hand the player who has possession. The interpreter moves his hands around the model field to indicate the action.