Opening doors to the future
Belarus celebrated 2013 European Football Week by hosting a three day international Unified Football tournament involving ten unified male teams from five countries. Nations represented included: Latvia, Lithuania, Russia (two teams from Murmansk and Vologda), Ukraine and five teams from host country Belarus.
Unified Football includes people with and without intellectual disabilities competing on the same team.
Achievements and excitement were happening on and off the pitch with the signing of a long-term partnership agreement between Special Olympics and the Belarus Football Federation that heralds football.
On signing of the agreement, Mr Sergei Safaryan, first Vice-President of the Belarus Football Federation said: “This is a very important moment for both our organisations. Today we enter a new period of cooperation and inclusion and those who will benefit most from our partnership will be the athletes of Special Olympics.”
The competitions took place from May 16th to 20th at FC “Bate” Stadium and were organized with the support of Borisov City local authorities, the Belarus Football Federation and the “Bate” Football Club.
One of the star players of FC “Bate”, Vitalij Rodionov, was really inspired by what he witnessed at the competitions: “We are all here together today because we all love football. I wish every team the best of luck in the competitions but I most of all I wish the enjoyment of playing strong and fair matches. I think Unified Football is a great idea and on the playing pitch we don’t see any difference between Special Olympics athletes and their partners on the football pitch.”
Athletes, partners (players without intellectual disabilities) and coaches also enjoyed a skills training session organized by the Belarus Football Federation.
But it wasn’t just football on the agenda. On day three of the tournament each participating Special Olympics athletes received a free health scan at a Healthy Athlete Programme taking place alongside the tournament. They also got the chance to learn more about life in Belarus and the history of the host city Borisov.
The tournament conclude with an Award and beautiful Closing Ceremony which took place at Bate Stadium attended by distinguished guests such as Pavel Zuga, the Deputy Mayor of Brisov City, Mr Sergei Safaryan First Vice-President the Belarus Football Federation, Mrs Valentina Shutko – Board Chair of Special Olympics Belarus, Mrs Larisa Tabolina, National Director of Special Olympics Belarus and Krzysztof Krukowski of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia. All took part in awarding medals and souvenir diplomas for all players and coaches.