Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Brazil the next stage

Qualifiers for the Rio football Special Olympics are to start, reports Abeer Anwar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Next month, the Dubai Club for Special Sports will host the Middle East Unified Sports Football Cup Qualifier. The tournament, organised by the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, acts as a qualifier for the 2014 Unified Sports Football Cup to take place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Ayman Abdel-Wahab, MENA president and regional manager, invited a number of high-ranking sports officials to attend the qualifiers including FIFA President Joseph Blatter, President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogue, and Saudi Prince Nawaf, head of the Arab Football Federation and Arab Olympic Committees whom he met last week in Riyadh.
Prince Nawaf said he appreciated the invitation and said he will exert “extreme effort” to help in making the event a success and will enjoy such an opportunity.
Abdel-Wahab said if such qualifiers prove to be a success, the MENA region will organise a MENA Unified Football Cup on a yearly basis “as football is the most popular sport across the world and the region as well”.
He added that Brazil has set a huge budget, $14 million, to host the event “for the sake of the mentally handicapped so we have to make the most of it. The whole world will be watching us so we have a golden chance to increase the number of athletes joining the Special Olympics movement.”
Abdel-Wahab also said that although a number of MENA countries were suffering from the Arab Spring uprisings, “Special Olympics MENA was able to make up for this by organising 19 sports events in nine countries with the participation of 3,516 athletes. MENA was able to take part in the 2013 Winter Games in South Korea with a big delegation.
SO MENA qualifiers will be divided into two groups: the Middle East in which 10 teams will be participating in the event to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates from 10-15 May. The second will be for North Africa. Cairo will host that event in October. Each qualifier will end up with one team so that the two qualifying teams will represent MENA in the Football Cup in Brazil.
The tournament brings together Special Olympics athletes (people with intellectual disabilities) and Unified Partners (people without intellectual disabilities) to play as teammates from all over the region in attempts to claim one of two qualifying spots in next year’s Unified Sports Football Cup in Brazil that will coincide with the FIFA World Cup.
The 10 teams participating in next month’s event are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. All will be struggling for those two qualifying spots and a chance to play in the same football stadiums that will be used for the 2014 FIFA World Cup such as the iconic Maracanã Stadium.
Mohammed Fadel Al-Hameli, chairman of Special Olympics UAE, believes the UAE has an excellent chance of making it to Brazil.
“This regional qualifying event is a very important tournament and is supported by FIFA,” Al-Hameli said. It is a unique event that can allow us to qualify for Brazil and our team has been preparing hard for the past year to do well. The UAE won the silver medal at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens in 2011 and the bronze at the Regional Games in Syria in 2011. So I believe we have an excellent chance of qualifying for Brazil.”
A similar event was held during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with the same of goal of using the powerful and global popularity of football to try and change perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics Global Football has three goals: bringing global football to a total of one million Special Olympics athletes worldwide by the year 2015; increasing the quality of coaching SO athletes receive; and helping athletes build skills they can use on and off the field of play.
With the next FIFA World Cup taking place in Brazil in 2014, Special Olympics will use the growing attention of football to introduce individuals with intellectual disabilities to the world’s most popular sport with a World Cup.

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