Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Special unity in Chicago

The Special Olympics of Egypt and the UAE will be representing the Middle East and North Africa in the first ever Special Olympics Unified Cup, reports Abeer Anwar

SO Egypt delegation in a memorial photo with the minister
Al-Ahram Weekly

Both Special Olympics Egypt (SO Egypt) and Special Olympics United Arab Emirates (SO UAE) will be representing the SO Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the first ever Special Olympics Unified Cup taking place in Chicago, in the US, from 17-20 July.

“For the first time I will be Special Olympics MENA president and managing director,” said Ayman Abdel-Wahab, SO MENA president and managing director. “It is a great opportunity for us in the MENA region to show the world and set an example for inclusion and the freedom and priority we are giving the Arab women as SO Egypt will be the first woman team for unified football to participate in a World Cup.”

Abdel-Wahab added at a press conference last week before the team flew to Chicago, “I am also delighted to witness such an event together with Abu Dhabi hosting the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games to the first ever games in the MENA region.”

Ashraf Sobhi, Egypt’s newly appointed youth and sports minister, declared that it was the first time for the ministry to host an event for the mentally handicapped “but from now on I will be there in every event related to Special Olympics Egypt and I will be waiting to welcome them at the airport when they return from the World Cup victorious.” Sobhi added that he was very proud of the SO Egypt women’s unified team who qualified easily to represent the MENA region in Chicago.

The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to five million athletes. 

Special Olympics

Special Olympics is celebrating the 50th anniversary and will be welcoming soccer legends Didier Drogba, Hidetoshi Nakata, and Zico to take part in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota on 17-20 July at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, in the US.

The famed footballers will participate alongside 24 Special Olympics Unified football teams during the four-day competition, which consist of players with and without intellectual disabilities.

  “It is an honour to take part in the Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota,” said Nakata, Special Olympics Global ambassador, on “I know from experience how sports can empower athletes to be leaders on and off the field, and I am excited for the world to witness the talent and leadership of Special Olympics athletes and their Unified teammates.”

At the Unified Cup, international football legends will take the field with Special Olympics Unified soccer teams to showcase the transformative power of sport on the global stage.

Each Unified football team will be joined by high-level club sponsors, uniting elite athletes and football federations to fight discrimination on the playing field. The final matches will be broadcast live on ESPN2, marking the first-ever live primetime broadcast of a Special Olympics Unified Sports competition.

“The Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota represents the unrelenting spirit of the Special Olympics movement,” said Mary Davis, Special Olympics CEO. “Our athletes invite the world to spark a revolution for inclusion – a peaceful protest against discrimination, breaking down barriers to unite people of all abilities and backgrounds through sport.”

“During my school days, I was completely devoted to field hockey and learned the importance of fighting as part of one team,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation. “In Special Olympics, sport is not the only challenge; even daily life can be a battle to people with intellectual disabilities and those who support them in everyday life. A truly inclusive society, like the one being represented by ‘Unified Sports,’ is one where people with intellectual disabilities are not just supported by those charged with helping them, but where people with and without disabilities live side by side, grow up together and learn from each other.”

“Special Olympics is excited to partner with Toyota and showcase the power of inclusion through sport on the global stage,” Davis said. “The Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota will unite athletes from all over the world and demonstrate that when we train and compete together, we break down barriers and change the game for inclusion.”

Special Olympics

SO Egypt women team will compete in Group B against SO Bharat (India), SO Mexico and SO Korea while Group A comprises SO USA, Illinois, SO Slovakia, SO Kenya and SO Brazil.

SO UAE men’s team falls in Group D with SO Texas, SO Russia and SO Canada. Group A includes SO USA Illinois, SO France, SO Uruguay and SO Bangladesh. SO USA Kansas/Missouri, SO Germany, SO Ecuador and SO China make up Group B while Group C includes SO Nippon (Japan), SO Italy, SO Jamaica and SO Nigeria.

Special Olympics is focused on creating an inclusive community around the world through sport. Through their “unified sports”, everyone, regardless of intellectual disabilities, plays together while understanding and respecting each individual’s character and differences.

Though Special Olympics has made great strides since its founding in 1968, a study conducted by Kantar found that only 32 per cent of respondents fully believe that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of playing sports on a team with people without intellectual disabilities.

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