Two of UEFA's key social responsibility partners – Special Olympics and the FARE network – joined forces to play a unified demonstration match at the UEFA Champions Festival in London.
The two multicultural teams – a Special Olympics unified team from Sutton, in the English county of Surrey, and a London team from the Kick It Out organisation representing the FARE network, played a symbolic match to highlight how people can come together as one to show solidarity and an inclusive face to the world.
The Kick It Out team represented the fight against discrimination, while the unified Special Olympics side highlighted the way in which football can be a powerful means of inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities. Despite the pouring rain, the players were able to demonstrate their skills and enthusiasm for the game to an enthusiastic crowd.
Graham, an athlete with Special Olympics Great Britain, excelled in the penalty shoot-out and said: "It was brilliant. it was fantastic playing here just before a UEFA Champions League final."
Organiser Jason Cornwall of Special Olympics GB underlined the necessity to keep highlighting social causes. "Every year, Special Olympics does something similar at a Champions Festival," he said. "For us, this game was particularly important in London, because it highlights the necessity of showing what can be done through football to tackle exclusion, and improve the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. And in turn, the lives of everyone they touch."
The match was one of the highlight events of the Special Olympics Annual European Football Week, staged in 50 countries across Europe for over 50,000 participants, and supported by UEFA.
Both Special Olympics and FARE have enjoyed long-standing partnerships with UEFA. Special Olympics provides opportunities to more than four million athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries. The Special Olympics Europe Eurasia-UEFA Football Development Project began in 1998, and aims, primarily, to involve more players with intellectual disabilities in football.
Formed in 1999 in Vienna, FARE represents NGOs, fan groups, migrant and ethnic minority organisations and individuals in over 40 countries. Over the years, activities by FARE and UEFA have heightened awareness of discrimination in football and how best to tackle it.
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