La Copa América de Olimpiadas Especiales (Special Olympics Copa America) took place 18-19 November in Asunción, Paraguay, featuring more than 200 Special Olympics footballers from 12 countries throughout Latin America.  The tournament, the brainchild of longtime Special Olympics supporter Dr. Nicolás Leoz, President of CONMEBOL, was the first of its kind for Special Olympics.

Dr. Leoz starting the game.

Athletes, coaches, media representatives, family members, government officials and leaders witnessed the power of football to change attitudes and perceptions towards people with intellectual disabilities and to include them in their communities. Football is a powerful vehicle to raise public awareness around the world and a long-lasting tradition in Latin America.

CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation is the governing body of football in South America and the oldest continental confederation of the world and organized the standards and protocols for the tournament under the leadership of Dr. Leoz.

Carlos Castillo, Captain of Team Ecuador showed his excitement for the tournament as he exclaimed “We have a great responsibility! An entire country believes in us and we will not disappoint Ecuador, we will certainly do our best on the field, always with humility, discipline and joy”.

The tournament began with an Opening Ceremony at Libertad Stadium in Asuncion, attended by Dr. Nicolás Leoz, President of CONMEBOL; Paulo Reichard, Minister of Sports of Paraguay; Dennis Brueggemann, President and Managing Director SOLA; Irma Cueva, President of SO Paraguay; and Special Olympics football ambassadors.

Saturday’s opening match featured Peru and Chile. Sossimar Villa from Peru scored the first and only  goal within the first 30 minutes of the match.  Ecuador’s Vice Minister Augusto Moran, Vice President of the South American Tennis Confederation and President of Special Olympics Chile Sergio Elias; SOLA football ambassadors Teofilo Cubillas and former bolivian footballers Juan Manuel Peña (Bolvia) and Victor Cordero (Costa Rica).

Next came the heated competition between Argentina and Bolivia. Edson Hinojosa from Bolivia scored the only goal of the game.  The teams were cheered on from the sidelines by SOLA football ambassadors Teófilo Cubillas and former Bolivian footballers Juan Manuel Peña (Bolvia) and Victor Cordero (Costa Rica).

“The Vinotinto,” the nickname for Team Venezuela kicked off the third match of the day against Uruguay with Guillermo Maidana of Uruguay scoring in the 14th minute of the match. Venezuela equaled the score at the 22th minute. But Maidana score again to take back the lead.  Joel Nuñez of Uruguay scored again in the final minutes of the Game, bringing the final score to 3-1.

Team Costa Rica, who had worked with footballers of Costa Rica’s Saprissa defeated Ecuador in their first match, followed by a 3-0 win against Argentina in the second round. The tournament closed with a 2-1 win for Paraguay over team Peru, followed by a 2-2 tie between Team Brazil and Venezuela.

To learn more about the Copa America, visit the blog, http://copaamericaoe.wordpress.com/; or follow us on Twitter: @oeamericalatina.



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