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Annual European Football Week

With a long term commitment from UEFA spanning 16 years, European Football Week is an integral part of the Special Olympics football development project in Europe involving more than 50,000 Special Olympics players across 50 countries.
Supported by UEFA since the year 2000 the annual Special Olympics European Football Week is a major highlight in the Special Olympics calendar supported by more than 35 National Football Federations and over 100 Professional Clubs across the Region. The 2016 European Football Week took place from May 21 - May 29 across 50 countries involving 50,000 players.

UEFA Support

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.

“More than 5,500 grassroots activities have been successfully organized by Special Olympics with National Football Federations over the past 16 years that have resulted in changed attitudes towards players with intellectual disabilities. 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." - Peter Gilliéron, Chairman, UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee.  


Visit UEFA website for more on the partnership between Special Olympics and UEFA. 


The Special Olympics Annual European Football Week idea was initiated in the year 2000 supported by UEFA. Starting with 15 countries in 2000, currently Special Olympics European Football Week involves almost all European countries.  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 with an average participation of up to 50,000 people. During Football Week, Special Olympics footballers of all abilities showcase their skills and determination on pitches throughout the Europe Eurasia region. The aim of football week is to encourage people from all walks of life to get involved in the Special Olympics movement using the most popular sport - football.


Read the 2016 European Football Week Brochure and check out a compilation of images from Football Week 2016 here.

Football Development

The focus of the 2016 European Football Week is on Under 12 (U12) Football and Unified football.

Each year European Football Week focuses on areas that need more attention in football and within the Special Olympics community. Football is the world’s most popular sport yet it is estimated that only one in 500 people with an intellectual disability are given the chance to play football due to being seen as ‘different’ or ‘without ability’. The goal of the annual Special Olympics European Football Week is to change this and to get players Unified which means athletes with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team. 2016 European Football Week will see more than 50,000 players in 50 countries taking part in over 450 events. The focus for 2016 is to push greater participation in Under 12 (U12) Football and to introduce the Young Athlete Program in new countries supported by MetLife EMEA. Under 12 football is a bridge between the Young Athletes Program targeted at children aged 2-7 and regular Special Olympics Unified football programming for those aged 12 years and older. Watch here Young Athletes in Lithuania taking part in the Lithuanian Football Federation's program 'Futboliukas' with professional club players from Žalgiris Vilnius

Stronger Every Year

Special Olympics Belgium football athlete Christophe Theys officially opens the 2016 Special Olympics Football Conference which was held in Antwerp.

Football legends including the late Johan Cruyff RIP, Christian Karembeu and FC Barcelona star Dani Alves united to show their support for this year's European Football Week. Watch their messages of support here. The bi-annual 2016 SOEE Football Coordinators' Conference took place in Antwerp in March involving 70 leaders from European football including representatives from UEFA and top Federations as well as Special Olympics coaches, sports directors and Program leaders. President of the Royal Belgian Football Association, Mr. François De Keersmaecker was guest of honour. See images from the 2016 Football Conference here.

Top Club Supporters for 2016

Top Dutch clubs SC Heerenveen and Heracles Almelo shared special moments with Special Olympics athletes on the pitch in front of a packed stadium before kick-off. 

Across Europe Italian Serie A and B, German Bundesliga clubs, Polish Ekstraklasa, Hungarian NBi-OTP Bank Liga, Dutch Jupiler League and Finnish Veikkausliiga are just some of the clubs that supported players with and without intellectual disabilities during European Football Week 2016.  Check out some super images here of players from Eredivisie top Dutch clubs SC Heerenveen and Heracles Almelo giving Special Olympics Netherlands athletes a thrill of a lifetime in front of thousands of fans before kick-off. 


Find out more and get involved

FC Barcelona star Dani Alves is a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics and is getting behind this year's Football Week. 

Branding and communications materials for the 2016 Special Olympics European Football Week are available here.  


For more information on Special Olympics European Football Week contact Miroslaw Krogulec, Director of Sports and Organizational Development. mkrogulec@specialolympics.org