National blind football team named after Chula Vista camp, including local gold medalist David Brown
Ten athletes have made it to the first U.S. National Men’s Blind Soccer Team, which is set to begin international competition next year.
In the end, the team will participate in the 2028 edition Paralympic Games in Los Angeles – the first time the United States will have an entry into the sport.
The team was selected by American Association of Blind Athletes after a four-day selection camp in Chula Vista that ended on Sunday. The list includes eight visually impaired athletes as well as two sighted goaltenders.
Blind football has been part of the Paralympic Games since 2004, but the United States has never fielded a team. The United States will receive automatic entry into the 2028 competition as the host country.
Among the other eight visually impaired athletes is David Brown, 30, of Chula Vista, a three-time Paralympian.
He didn’t just compete – in 2016 he won a gold medal in athletics in the 100 meters at the Rio Games. He is also a three-time world champion and world record holder in the 200 meters and 100 meters where he became the first totally blind athlete to run under 11 seconds. In high school, Brown competed in track and field, wrestling, and goalball.
The other seven named to the team are Noah Beckman (Columbus, Ohio), Cody Kirchner (Columbia, SC), Ahmed Shareef (Staten Island, NY), Ricardo Castaneda (Fort Worth, Texas), Kevin Brown (Falls Church, Va .), Antoine Craig (Richmond, Virginia) and Alvaro Mora Arellano (Phoenix, Arizona).
The two sighted goaltenders selected are Brandt Herron (Palm Coast, Fla.) and Kyle Knott (Brevard, NC).
“We are thrilled to name the first-ever United States Men’s National Blind Soccer Team,” said head coach Katie Smith. “It was amazing to see the growth of the athletes at this first national selection camp. It’s truly amazing to be part of this groundbreaking team and to have another Paralympic sport for blind athletes across the country to aspire to.
Beckman, 30, has been playing soccer since he was 6 and has also enjoyed swimming, wrestling, track and field, beep baseball, hockey and goalball. He became active with blind football in 2018.
Kirchner, 33, fell in love with blind football the moment he stepped onto the pitch and discovered he could run without being stopped or restrained. Ever since that day, he has dreamed of earning a spot on the US National Team and one day competing for a Paralympic medal.
Shareef, 25, dreamed of playing football from a young age, but at age 7 had his eyesight and right arm taken away by a bomb in his hometown of Baghdad. Brought to the United States by the charity Global Medical Relief Fund, Shareef attended his first football camp for the blind in 2019.
Castaneda, 22, went blind at age 15 and has practiced judo, wrestling, goalball, track and field triathlon, beep baseball and swimming. He earned Most Valuable Player honors in 2017 at the Northwest Regional competition and was beep baseball’s Most Valuable Defensive Player at a tournament in Chicago in 2021.
Kevin Brown, 50, has been legally blind since he was 7 years old. He participated in soccer and other mainstream sports in high school and college and continued to compete in track and field events around the United States after graduation. He held the USATF record in the pentathlon and is currently a member of the United States National Blind Hockey Team.
Craig, 40, competed in track and field at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. He was a silver medalist in the 100 meters at the 2021 Paralympic Trials and a silver medalist in the 200 meters at the 2017 U.S. Paralympic National Championships.
For Mora Arellano, 35, football has always been his first love. As a young boy, he dreamed of being on a real football pitch dribbling the ball. Mora Arellano attended his first blind football clinic in 2019 after seeing an invitation in the Blind Athletes Association newsletter.
After graduating from high school as varsity athlete of the year, Herron, 21, played football for Daytona State College, where the team contested back-to-back national championships.
Knott, 36, was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college. During his college career at Longwood University, James Madison University, and Mars Hill University, he was a long-distance runner, diver, triathlete, and cyclist. Knott was the first-ever national cycling champion at Mars Hill in 2011.
The team’s alternates are John Marquez (Fort Worth, TX) and Charles Catherine (Brooklyn, NY).