Soccer or Football as it’s more commonly known, is the world’s most popular sport and a leader globally. No other sport has its reach and impact. Yet only one in five children with intellectual disabilities are given the chance to play football due to being seen by their peers as being “different “ or “without ability”.
Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) is a key partner with Special Olympics in helping us even the playing field. Our goal is to bring the experience of football to 500,000 athletes worldwide while ensuring our athletes experience quality coaching, and train with the best of professional equipment.
For Athens 2011, UEFA supported all of the 120 football teams participating in the Games, providing each with the necessary professional football equipment for training: UEFA/World Games branded balls, cones, shin protectors, bibs and a training DVD.
In partnership with Speical Olympics Europe/Eurasia, UEFA went one step further by hosting a Football Fun Park at the Hellinkon Stadium during the course of the Games to provide a five-day training program to each of our footballers.
The UEFA Football Fun Park is run by two Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and two Coerver Coaching coaches along with many volunteers helping the athletes, coaches, and spectators. It is estimated that a total of 500 people have participated in the UEFA and SOEE funded Football Fun Park this week. Well done to all involved!
The concept of the Park training program is based on 10 stations each focused on individual skills and drills. On completion each participant receives a certificate of participation with their total score of points gathered at each station as well as a special reward from the project partners. The focus is on helping athletes reach their personal best and each day statistics of the best 20 results are being posted next to the venue, so participants can check their level in skill tests.
The best three scores in four categories (male/female/partners/public including coaches/volunteers/spectators, will receive a special presentation during an official medals ceremony on Monday, July 3rd at 12.30 pm.
True to its name the launch of the UEFA Football Fan on Tuesday, June 28th was a fantastically entertaining and fun event attended by many global football leaders including UEFA representative & President of the Hellenic Football Federation Sofoklis Pilavios, and Takis Fisssas, Technical Director of the Greek National Football Team. Also present our Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver. Makis Asimakopoulos / Head of Sports & Venues ATHENS 2011 welcomed all the guests to the occasion.
Freestyle World Champion Billy Wingrove from the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation thrilled all of the guests, volunteers and athletes with his outstanding ball skills, followed by another treat of a colourful balloon show.
“We are delighted of the success of the SOEE & UEFA funded Fun Park” says Sofoklis Pilavios, UEFA representative & President of the Hellenic Football Federation: “It’s wonderful to see everyone participating together and the coaches and volunteers have been fantastic in ensuring that everyone is learning and developing”.
UEFA are also lead supporters of our annual European Football Week where everyone in the football community commits to do something to create more opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in sport.
Now more than 33 national football federations across Europe integrated support of players with intellectual disabilities into their regular activity plans, leading the way for other sports organizations, like the European Swimming League and FIBA (the Home of International Basketball) to do the same.