Former French international Christian Karembeu was honoured to be in Warsaw as a guest at the Special Olympics European Unified Football Tournament. Special Olympics is one of UEFA's core social responsibility partners, providing opportunities to more than four million athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries.
The Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE)-UEFA Football Development Project began in 1998 and aims primarily to involve more players with intellectual disabilities in football. "Special Olympics athletes are fighting with the same commitment as professionals," said Karembeu.
The tournament took place on pitches provided by Legia Warszawa, and featured 12 teams from Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey. The unified football teams were composed of players with intellectual disabilities and able-bodied partners without disabilities.
The opening ceremony witnessed welcome speeches from the Polish minister for sport and tourism Joanna Mucha, SOEE director Mary Davies and SOEE football ambassadors, former Polish national-team players Roman Kosecki and Michał Żewłakow. During the competition, players also took the opportunity to explore the city of Warsaw and have their photos taken with Karembeu and Żewłakow.
Serbia, Romania, France, Slovakia and Russia qualified for the Special Olympics Unified Cup to be held in November 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, while Poland also gained a place as the host country of the qualifying tournament.
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