The first Special Olympics Copa America featured more than 200 Special Olympics footballers with intellectual disabilities from 12 countries throughout Latin America.
Latin American delegations
"Discipline and Joy"
The November event was part of Special Olympics’ Global Football initiative, which seeks to use the world’s most popular sport to bring opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Special Olympics has close to 4 million athletes worldwide but hopes to reach more than 7 million in the next five years.
Football is a powerful vehicle to raise public awareness of Special Olympics around the world and is a long-lasting tradition in Latin America. Athletes, coaches, media representatives, family members, government officials and leaders witnessed the power of football to change attitudes and perceptions towards people with intellectual disabilities and to include them in their communities.
The tournament, the brainchild of longtime Special Olympics supporter Dr. Nicolás Leoz, President of CONMEBOL, was the first of its kind for Special Olympics in Latin America
Special Olympics fans and supporters
CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation is the governing body of football in South America and the oldest continental confederation of the world. It organized the standards and protocols for the tournament under the leadership of Dr. Leoz.
The tournament began with an Opening Ceremony at Libertad Stadium in Asuncion, attended by Dr. Nicolás Leoz, President of CONMEBOL; Paulo Reichard, Minister of Sports of Paraguay; Dennis Brueggemann, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Latin America; Irma Cueva, President of SO Paraguay; and Special Olympics football ambassadors.
Saturday’s opening match featured Peru and Chile. Sossimar Villa from Peru scored the first and only goal within the first 30 minutes of the match. Ecuador’s Vice Minister Augusto Moran, Vice President of the South American Tennis Confederation and President of Special Olympics Chile Sergio Elias; SOLA football ambassadors Teofilo Cubillas and former Bolivian footballers Juan Manuel Peña (Bolivia) and Victor Cordero (Costa Rica).
Next came the heated competition between Argentina and Bolivia. Edson Hinojosa from Bolivia scored the only goal of the game. The teams were cheered on from the sidelines by SOLA football ambassadors Teófilo Cubillas and former Bolivian footballers Juan Manuel Peña (Bolivia) and Victor Cordero (Costa Rica).
“The Vinotinto,” the nickname for Team Venezuela kicked off the third match of the day against Uruguay with Guillermo Maidana of Uruguay scoring in the 14th minute of the match. Venezuela equaled the score at the 22th minute. But Maidana score again to take back the lead. Joel Nuñez of Uruguay scored again in the final minutes of the Game, bringing the final score to 3-1.
Team Costa Rica, who had worked with footballers of Costa Rica’s Saprissa defeated Ecuador in their first match, followed by a 3-0 win against Argentina in the second round. The tournament closed with a 2-1 win for Paraguay over team Peru, followed by a 2-2 tie between Team Brazil and Venezuela.