Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Masina called Special Olympics athletes, “Bangladesh’s children,” and urged businesses to continue their corporate support to help athletes thrive during her opening remarks at the first South Asian Football Tournament in Dhaka.
Hosted by Special Olympics Bangladesh in May, five teams from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bharat (India) competed over two days in two divisions. In addition to the Prime Minister, government delegates including Honorable Minister for Social Welfare Enamul Hoque Mostofa Shaheed and President of Bangladesh Olympics Association Md. Abdul Moheen graced the Opening Ceremony at Bangladesh Army Stadium on 22 May. Local television network Bangladesh TV broadcast the 90 minute ceremony live, featuring a torch run, athlete procession, and cultural performances from the Society for the Welfare of the Intellectually Disabled of Bangladesh (SWID).
The Prime Minister also credited Special Olympics for their dynamic efforts to change the lives of people with Intellectual Disabilities using sports and competitions as a platform. To further the Special Olympics movement, the Prime Minister announced the government will dedicate a special sports complex for the athletes to facilitate year round training and competition.
In the first group, Bharat’s team A beat Bangladesh’s team A 2-1 in penalty shootouts. The two teams played the best of three games, producing a 1-1 draw. Bangladesh’s team B emerged champion in the second group competition, beating Bharat’s team B in the finals. Pakistan came in third place, winning the Fair Play award.
The South Asian Tournament is one in a series of football tournaments happening over Asia Pacific. Look out for more national and regional action coming over the coming months from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.