Special Olympics Bosnia and Herzegovina joined UNICEF and the Bosnian Football Federation to celebrate the birthday of Edin Džeko, national team striker and UNICEF Ambassador, with a game prior to the Bosnia Herzegovina World Cup qualifier against Greece on 18 March 2013 in Sarajevo. The celebratory game aimed to highlight the sports abilities of children with disabilities and to draw attention to their needs.
"Working with children is very fulfilling and I want to use this game to show just how important sports events and physical activities are for them. We hope that our message will contribute to making sports available to every child,” said Džeko, who turned 27 on 17 March. The Sarajevo native, who is one of the most popular football players in the country, added: “What makes me particularly happy is having children with disabilities in the team. Sport is a necessary part of their therapy and growing up. However, many of them have no such opportunity. I want us all to talk about their abilities, rather than disabilities.”
Rallying around the slogan “Unite for Children - It’s About Ability,” 27 boys and girls with and without disabilities joined Džeko and some of his teammates and friends on the pitch for a game in front of hundreds of young people from Special Olympics clubs, youth football clubs and football schools. Ms. Kada Delić Selimovic, Special Olympics Bosnia Herzegovina national director and a well-known sportswoman, led the Special Olympics team. Special Olympics athlete Josip Adzaip was tasked was the kick off.
Ms. Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “As we know, children with disabilities and their families are too often invisible. Their inclusion in society requires a change of perception: the recognition of children with disabilities as having rights as well as an understanding that their active presence and voice will improve society as a whole. They need to be a part, rather than apart.”
This is the first joint event for Special Olympics National Program and UNICEF. The Program has worked closely with the Football Federation for several years, including in developing Special Olympics Unified Sports®.