For the first-time ever, athletes were welcomed on an actual FIFA World Cup pitch prior to a World Cup match to play on the same field that soccer stars from Germany and Argentina would play on just hours later. Celebrities, soccer legends and even the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, took to the field alongside 16 Special Olympics athlete teammates that hailed from all over the world.
On Saturday July 3rd, Special Olympics and Coca-Cola proudly shared in this historic moment at Cape Town Stadium that fittingly ended in a 2-2 draw. The two teams - named “Special Stars” and “Happiness United” - enjoyed a 20-minute match on the FIFA World Cup™ stadium pitch, which both Coca-Cola and Special Olympics executives hailed as the beginning of an incredible journey together.
During the first-ever Unity Cup, all four goals in the match were scored by Special Olympics athletes who demonstrated just how talented of soccer players they are. The first goal was scored by Manolis Tampakakis of Special Olympics Greece. Maicon Santana of Special Olympics Brazil then scored to tie the match at 1-1. Special Olympics Slovenia athlete Miran Brejc scored to put the “Special Stars” up 2-1. At the end of the match, Special Olympics Algeria athlete Yacine Zabi had his back to the goal, and leaped for an incredible scissor kick to score for “Happiness United” and tie the match for a final of 2-2. Yacine’s scissor kick goal was talked about for hours and hours by his teammates following the match – even amidst the various language barriers, everyone realized just what a tremendous athletic feat he had accomplished.
"This was an incredible event and just the beginning," said Timothy P. Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. “The world is hungry for unity as was seen first-hand with this match. People were brought together as one on this field and it just shows the incredible power of sport to bring people together. It also marks a big turning point in our relationship with our long-time partner Coca-Cola.”
Since the establishment of Special Olympics in 1968, The Coca-Cola Company has been an Official Global Partner. Coca-Cola supports the movement in an effort to showcase the dignity and capacity of people with intellectual disabilities on a global stage. The Coca-Cola Company is a FIFA Partner and has had a formal association with the governing body for world football since 1974 and has been an official sponsor of every FIFA World Cup since 1978.
"We are excited to take this journey with Special Olympics, because it helps companies like ours to help in a meaningful way to create sustainable communities, and when we create sustainable communities we know we will have a sustainable business," said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Coca-Cola Company. "This is the beginning of a journey; an exciting journey."