UEFA, the English Football Association (FA) and UEFA's Football for All Abilities partner, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia, have joined forces at a workshop to provide information and educational support to the coaches of European national teams with learning difficulties that have qualified for the Unified World Cup, which will take place in Malaysia later this year.
The event took place at the FA National Football Centre at St George's Park, and was hosted by the FA with the support and financial backing of the UEFA football education services. England, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, France, Poland and Russia have qualified for the event in Malaysia from 29 October to 10 November 2014.
The FA were outstanding hosts of this invaluable workshop. "The FA were delighted to host the workshop aimed at the national co-ordinators for Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia at St George's Park, the home for coach education and player development in England," said Jeff Davis, FA national development manager and a member of UEFA's grassroots football panel.
"We are proud of our record in the development of disability football over the past ten years, and were able to show course attendees a range of both theory and practical sessions to help them prepare their teams for the Unified World Cup to be held later in the year.
“From identifying strategies to deal with difficult players, to working with teams, to the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation showing the work it is undertaking in India with Special Olympics, the candidates were exposed to a range of workshops," Davis added. "Finally The FA's head of elite performance Dan Ashworth showed the group how The FA are developing its playing philosophy, which was extremely well received by all."
The Special Olympics Unified Football Cup will bring together qualifying Unified Sports football (soccer) teams from 25 countries representing each of the Special Olympics seven regions. Special Olympics gives sporting opportunities and a sense of achievement to athletes with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, Special Olympics provides these opportunities in a wide variety of sports to more than 4.2 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries.
The Special Olympics-UEFA partnership began in 1998, and the main objective is to involve more players with intellectual disabilities in football. Special Olympics is an international body that brings life-changing experiences by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities through sport – giving them the chance to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship.
UEFA became involved in the event as a result of its 'football for all' aspect. European football's governing body strongly believes that football should be for everyone, including players with learning difficulties. In addition, the UEFA Grassroots Charter underlines the importance of all-inclusive projects in order to give the opportunity to everyone to play.
"We would like to thank UEFA for this fantastic opportunity to experience the high level of expertise and great facilities at St George's Park," said Special Olympics representative Beverley Hill, who attended the course.
"The atmosphere was friendly and sharing attitude made for an excellent course," said Bogusław Gałązka from Special Olympics Poland.
"It was a great opportunity to learn and establish contact, to learn details which we will include in our programme in the short term," added Special Olympics Romania's Cristian Ispas. "Also, there were aspects which we will use to shape our long-term strategy. We made excellent contacts with professionals who we hope to involve in our development programmes."
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