Play Unified! Live Unified!
Special Olympics European Football Week not only captured national attention but also brought real change to Greece when on May 22 a Unified Football tournament was celebrated involving teams made up of Special Olympics Hellas athletes, famous Greek movie stars, football legends, journalists, and young police officers.
The tournament which marked UEFA Grassroots Day (May 22nd) as one of the highlights of European Football Week, was widely covered by the Greek State TV – ERT, ANT1 TV, the Hellenic Football Prognostics Organisation TV Channel and that of the Football Federation.
Activities began early in the day with five matches played in total. At the award ceremony the Deputy Minister of Sports of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Yiannis Ioannidis, congratulated Special Olympics Hellas on this wonderful initiative and thanked all the participants for their dedication and support to people with intellectual disabilities. Through their support, he added, they are giving Special Olympics athletes the chance to experience the benefits of sports and establish long-term friendships, on and off the football pitch.
In a welcomed announcement from Hellenic Football Federation, Board member Mr Michael Tzanopoulos, stressed in his address that the Federation’s support to special Olympics is being considered priority and he invited Joanna Despotopoulou, President of Special Olympics Hellas, to review their existing memorandum of cooperation and sign a new, more specific one, aiming at including Special Olympics Hellas Teams in all interclub events throughout Greece.
The Physical Education Director at the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, Mr Stelios Daskalakis said that Special Olympics has set an example which the entire sports world must follow, by initiating events such as the European Football Week and referred, once more, to the fact that the Ministry has included Special Olympics athletes in mainstream Schools sports championships.
President of Special Olympics Hellas, Mrs Joanna Despotopoulou concluded the day’s events by thanking all those involved and saying that when we play and live unified we are creating a society where everyone is respected and valued regardless of their abilities and inabilities.
At the closing of the UEFA Grassroots day Celebrations in Greece, Special Olympics Hellas presented medals to all Unified teams and Certificates of Appreciation to:
• The Hellenic Football Federation
• The Press Football League
• The Football Union of Greek Actors
• The Hellenic Police Athletism Association and
• The Greek Football Veterans Association
UEFA’s Grassroots Program Banner were displayed in every corner of the Football Grounds and teams got to play, for the first time ever, with official UEFA’s Grassroots Day Balls, provided to Special Olympics Hellas by the Hellenic Football Federation.