When the Greek city of Thessaloniki hosted the 1988 Chess Olympiad, there was a little kid who was watching the proceedings very closely. Elias Mastoras, 11 then, had been introduced to the chess through a development project in schools.
“Kasparov and Karpov were there, Judit Polgar too. I was in the designated area, moving the pieces,” said Mastoras, the chairman of the IBSA World Blind Football who is also a chess FIDE Master, in a chat with The Hindu here on Thursday.
Mastoras, from Thessaloniki, was an upcoming player those days.
“In 1992, I was among the best prodigies from Greece who were taken to Moscow for classes with Grandmaster Smyslov (Vasily Smyslov, former World champion).
“But later, I felt it would be difficult for me to go from FIDE Master to Grandmaster.”
He moved to coaching, which he still does at his ‘Say Chess’ academy, and later became Greece’s national chess coach for the blind.”
His blind friend Stratos, who stayed with him for seven years and who also played football, was instrumental in Mastoras trying out football.
“In 1995, there was a global movement to have blind football as a sport. It was an inclusive sport with totally blind players scoring goals against sighted goalkeepers. I volunteered as a goalkeeper and played in the 1999 European championship for the partially blind in Belarus.”
But after a loss against a local team in Athens, he moved on.
Mastoras became a referee, then a co-ordinator for referees, and last year, became the IBSA Blind Football chairman. And he has played a big part in making blind women footballers think big.
“For the first time, we now have female blind footballers with all categories combined to form national teams. Next year, we will have the first women’s World Championship in Birmingham.”
India will be a part of this history. Indian women will be playing their first blind football international in the Asian championship which begins here on Friday. And next year, they will be making their World championship debut.