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A Celebration of Football that Unites People Throughout Europe

During Special Olympics European Football Week, our footballers with intellectual disabilities showcase their skills and determination on pitches throughout the Europe Eurasia region. The goal is to encourage people from all walks of life to get involved in the Special Olympics movement using the most popular sport.

The Biggest European Football Week Ever

Brazilian football star and FC Barcelona defender, Dani Alves, shared his passion for the game with Special Olympics footballers in Barcelona ahead of Special Olympics European Football Week 2014. “It is important for me to support Special Olympics. We are all equal on the playing field. We can all change our lives through the joy of football,” Alves said.

This year's football week kicked off on 17 May and ran through to 25 May. Over the week, 55,000 of our Special Olympics athletes, all of whom have an intellectual disability (ID), played more than 420 matches across 50 countries. 

Special Olympics athletes bring skill, pace and joy to the soccer pitch.  For spectators and supporters each game was thrilling. But that's no secret to Europe's football governing body, the Union of European Football Associations, UEFA.

“UEFA is very proud to be involved in the annual Special Olympics European Football Week initiative since 2000. Football is a powerful way to instill the values of acceptance, respect, skill and inclusion to communities all over Europe. UEFA is committed to support Special Olympics Football Week so everyone regardless of ability level, has the opportunity to enjoy football, " said Peter Gilliéron, Chairman UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility. 

Top Supporters

Inter Milan players, including Captain Javier Zanetti, celebrate the start of Special Olympics European Football Week 2014 with athletes from Special Olympics Italia.

The idea of having a Europe-wide celebration of football came in 2000, and UEFA officials embraced it. That first year, 15 countries took part, but now almost all European countries are involved.  Each country organizes a variety of football activities including large tournaments, exhibition matches during Club and Football Federation events and small local competitions hosted by communities and schools. This year, 37 National Football Federations and more than 70 football clubs have partnerships with Special Olympics Programs.  

The Week gets better every year

Special Olympics athletes receive a standing ovation from Celtic FC fans at Celtic Park, Glasgow. 

Italian Serie A and B, Polish Extraklasa, Legia Warszawa, Hungarian NB I - OTP Bank Liga, Duch Juplier League and Ukrainian Premier League are just some of the top clubs that supported and hosted players with intellectual disabilities this year. Expert hands-on training workshops for coaches is also a key aspect of the week.