By Paul Osborne

Kari Markland has announced his intention to retire as chairman of ISBA Goalball Committee ©IBSAKari Markland, chairman of the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) Goalball Committee, has announced he will retire from his role at the end of the year.

The 75-year-old came out of retirement in 2011 at the request of IBSA President Jannie Hammershoi, in an effort to help save IBSA Goalball following internal struggles with the former Committee.

After a successful period as chairman of the Swedish Organisation for the Disabled and Swedish Paralympic Committee from 2003 to 2011, Hammershoi believed Markland to be the perfect man to fill the role, with large portions of goalball's successes since 2011 pinned on him.

Following the news of his intended retirement, Hammershoi published a statement on the IBSA website commemorating the work of Markland.

"Finally, Kari the coach, is hanging up his boots and is leaving the court of play," she said.

"As for most blind people, goalball has always been very close to my heart.

"We all consider goalball as being something quite unique because it did not evolve from an existing sport; rather, it was designed specifically for - and developed by - blind people, in order to enjoy and to achieve sporting excellence.

"Therefore, goalball holds a special place in the psyche of blind athletes worldwide – they consider it to be 'their' sport.

"However, back in April 2011, IBSA Goalball was in serious difficulties.

"It had succeeded in alienating many key people in the wider goalball community; the leadership style was abrasive and undemocratic.

"The final straw was when the former committee decided unilaterally to break away from IBSA and become an independent organisation.

Goalball was the first Paralympic sport devised specifically for disabled people after making its debut in the Paralympic programme at the 1980 Paralympics in Arnhem, The Netherlands ©Getty ImagesGoalball was the first Paralympic sport devised specifically for disabled people after making its debut in the Paralympic programme at the 1980 Paralympics in Arnhem, The Netherlands ©Getty Images

Hammershoi added: "The IBSA board finally woke up to the situation and realised that action was required if we were to 'save' goalball.

"It was my task to set up a working group to manage the goalball project, so we started by promptly removing the entire IBSA Goalball committee.

"That was but the first step.

"We had an urgent need for a new chairman for IBSA Goalball – someone who would command the respect of the goalball community, but also a person possessing the experience necessary to lead goalball back onto the 'right track'.

"Luckily for me and for IBSA Goalball, someone appeared over the horizon...a man with enormous integrity and impeccable curriculum vitae – that man was Dr Kari Marklund.

"After a long and distinguished academic, business and sports career, Kari retired in May 2011.

"However, when I heard that he had some time on his hands, I grasped my opportunity.

"Acting fast, I invited Kari to take part in the first goalball strategic planning workshop in Enkoping, Sweden on 15th May 2011 - the day that Kari was persuaded out of retirement...

"Since then, Kari has succeeded in transforming the culture that had existed in IBSA Goalball.

"As a result of his hard work - and the dedication of his superb committee - IBSA Goalball is now a well-managed, far more democratic, effective and vibrant organisation, with firm foundations built on fairness, equity and accountability.

"Having achieved so much, Kari has informed me that he wishes to retire - for a final time - in December 2014.

"Of course, we greet Kari's announcement with mixed feelings; however, my overwhelming sentiment is one of deep gratitude to Kari for what he has achieved for IBSA and, in particular, the goalball family.

"On behalf of IBSA, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Kari for his leadership, his dedication and his wisdom.

"Kari, your commitment to IBSA Goalball will never be forgotten."

It is not yet clear who will replace Markland. 

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]