Competition in the football tournament at the Special Olympics World Games started in earnest on Monday, after a weekend of preliminary matches. The process, known as divisioning, is used to establish rankings between teams of varying skills and ability.
Round matches began in the four football tournaments of eleven-a-side, five-a-side and mixed eleven and five-a-side. The five-a-side competitions are taking place in Belfield, while the eleven-a-side competitions unfold in the Athletic Union League complex at Clonshaugh.
High skill levels
The weekend brought the opening of proceedings, and spectators at Belfield included Republic Of Ireland goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner. The former Celtic FC custodian expressed his admiration for the players on show and their high skill levels and tipped the impressive Croatian five-a-side team for gold medal glory.
The real crowd pleasers, however, were the South African side whose extravagant goal celebrations amused the large crowd. Before their game against the United States, the South Africans performed a rain dance and proceeded to repeat the formula after every goal in a comprehensive victory.
The Australian teams will also be expecting to do well after impressing in the divisioning tournament. Cheered on by a voiciferous band of supporters, the Australians and young star Jeremy Jones will be anticipating a successful week.
Those athletes taking a break from the action were well catered for at the Festival Village back in the Royal Dublin Society site at Ballsbridge. Live music entertained athletes, friends and families but the highlight of the day was when boxing legend Muhammad Ali made a surprise visit to the health centre.
The 2003 World Games Fashion Show, featuring the designs of Louise Kennedy, Lainey Keogh, Richard Lewis, Peter O'Brien, John Rocha and Mariad Whisker, also took place on Sunday, offering free admission to all spectators. While the competition proper starts on Monday, the football finals are scheduled for Saturday at Belfield and Sunday at Clonshaugh.
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