• Football Week

    European Football Week

    It is called the beautiful game and for 17 years Special Olympics has been at the forefront of spreading a message of inclusion and acceptance through the power of football.

  • 1300x680-Football-Week-S2

    European Football Week

    It is called the beautiful game and for 17 years Special Olympics has been at the forefront of spreading a message of inclusion and acceptance through the power of football.

  • 1300x680-Football-Week-S3

    European Football Week

    It is called the beautiful game and for 17 years Special Olympics has been at the forefront of spreading a message of inclusion and acceptance through the power of football.

  • 1300x680-Football-Week-S4

    European Football Week

    It is called the beautiful game and for 17 years Special Olympics has been at the forefront of spreading a message of inclusion and acceptance through the power of football.

The Beautiful Game

Supported by UEFA since 2000, Special Olympics European Football Week is an annual highlight on the movement’s calendar. It is supported by a host of national football federations as well as hundreds of professional clubs.

Inclusion Through Sport

Special Olympics’ European Football Week is one of our movement’s flagship annual events. Each year, with the help of UEFA and sponsor MetLife, thousands of players of all ages take part in matches across the continent. In doing so, these players, some with intellectual disabilities, some without, demonstrate to the world that inclusion through sport is an achievable goal.

From May 27th to June 4th 45,000 players will lace up their boots and take to football pitches across Europe Eurasia. The focus of the event in 2017 is youth, with Under 12’s Unified football a key focus. Special Olympics’ invites you to celebrate this event and support the unique power of football to break down barriers!

UEFA Support

 Large scale events with ambitions targets are only ever made possible with the support of partners. Special Olympics is fortunate to have had UEFA in its corner for the many years. Over the course of the partnership, more than 6,000 grassroots football activities and games have been successfully organized with national football federations. Each of these events has played its part in positively changing attitudes towards players with intellectual disabilities.

Peter Gilliéron, Chairman of UEFA's Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee, believes European Football Week offers the perfect platform to demonstrate the power the game has in promoting universal ideas of respect and inclusion.

"UEFA is pleased to be involved in the annual Special Olympics European Football Week since the year 2000. We are delighted to support Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) towards developing participation at all ability level. UEFA aims to increase playing opportunities to footballers of all abilities at grassroots level. This year's focus is on Under 12 Unified football, which UEFA fully endorses. Football has the power to instill the values of acceptance, respect and inclusion to youth communities all over Europe."

Visit UEFA website for more on the partnership between Special Olympics and UEFA.
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Special Olympics Europe Eurasia in partnership with UEFA’s Football Social Responsibility Program has achieved significant progress in the expansion of football opportunities for players with intellectual disabilities in 58 countries across the region.
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UEFA Champions Festival in Berlin 2015

MetLife Support

MetLife’s support of Special Olympics European Football Week is one that cannot be forgotten. In 2016 MetLife employees in 17 countries left their desks and offices to volunteer at Special Olympics Young Athletes and Unified Football events during European Football Week. MetLife volunteers participated at the Special Olympics activities as part of its first MetLife EMEA Community Week across its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

"The idea for MetLife EMEA Community Week came directly from our employees across EMEA and demonstrates their commitment and desire to make a meaningful difference in the communities in which we work." said Michel Khalaf, MetLife EMEA President and MetLife Foundation Board member. MetLife will generously support Special Olympics again this year with employee engagement events in 17 countries across the Europe Eurasia region as part of their Community Week initiative.

See Metlife's support of Special Olympics European Football Week through photos

From Small Beginnings a Great Event was Born

European Football Week began back in 2000 with 15 countries taking part. Each country organised a variety of football activities with large-scale tournaments, exhibition matches and smaller local competitions hosted by communities and schools, taking place. As it has grown in popularity, the objective of European Football Week remains the same; offering players of all the abilities the opportunity to take part and demonstrate their skills and talents on the pitch. In more recent times, the Play Unified message of athletes with and without disabilities playing together has become a core focus.

Across Europe, famous clubs have also thrown their support behind European Football Week. In 2016 clubs from the Italian Serie A and B, German Bundesliga clubs, Polish Ekstraklasa, Hungarian NBi-OTP Bank Liga, Dutch Jupiler League and Finnish Veikkausliiga demonstrated their commitment to Special Olympics. Check out some super images here of players from top Dutch clubs SC Heerenveen and Heracles Almelo giving Special Olympics Netherlands athletes the experience of a lifetime in front of thousands of fans.

Over the years a number of high profile football stars have shown their support for Football Week. Check out the video below.
High profile football stars show their support for Football Week.

Targeting Unified Youth Football in 2017

Each year European Football Week focuses in on priority development areas. Football is the world’s most popular sport yet many with intellectual disabilities are not given the chance to play due to being seen as ‘different’ or ‘without ability’. The goal of European Football Week is to change this mindset and get players with and without intellectual disabilities playing together on the same team. In 2017 the goal will be to have 45,000 players from 50 countries take part in 450 plus events all over Europe.

The focus for 2017 is to push greater participation in Under 12 (U12) Football. Under 12 Football is a bridge between the Young Athletes Program, which is targeted at children aged between two and seven years of age, and regular Special Olympics Unified Football programming for those aged 12 years and older. Thanks to the support of MetLife EMEA, the Young Athlete programme in 17 Europe Eurasia countries will be supported in 2017.
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Youth Unified Assistants Academy project in Poland.

Stronger Every Year

Sharing a pitch with some of Belgium’s top players ranks highly on the wish-list of many footballers. But for a group of Special Olympics athletes, this dream became a reality when the Red Devils opened up the doors of their training center in Tubize, Belgium. The game in 2016 was organised in partnership with Special Olympics Belgium to promote awareness of their Play Unified campaign, which is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experience.
Special Olympics Belgium and Red Devils Play Unified Challenge.
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Special Olympics Belgium football athlete Christophe Theys officially opens the 2016 Special Olympics Football Conference, which was held in Antwerp.

Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia Football Conference

In 2016 the bi-annual SOEE Football Conference took place in Antwerp in March involving 70 leaders from European football including representatives from UEFA, Football Federations, European Union as well as Special Olympics Programs. See images from the 2016 SOEE Football Conference here.

Find Out More and Get Involved

For more information on Special Olympics European Football Week contact Miroslaw Krogulec, Director of Sports and Organizational Development, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia.