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Stories from the Unified Cup 2022

The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 brought players, officials, fans, family, staff and supporters together to celebrate inclusion on and off the football (soccer) pitch. At Special Olympics the “beautiful game” is made possible by beautiful people. Here are some of their stories.


Emma Broyles standing with an athlete.

Emma Broyles • Miss America 2022/Special Olympics Champion Ambassador

Emma Broyles grew up watching her older brother Brendan participate in various Special Olympics sports. When she became a coach for the Special Olympics Anchorage swim team that competed in the 2018 Special Olympics Alaska State Games, Broyles took special joy from getting to boss her brother around in the pool. “My coaching style was ‘hands-on’ and I often got in the water to demonstrate what I was teaching,” Broyles said. At the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022, Broyles spent time at both the women’s and men’s matches. “The level of competition is a lot higher than many people would expect. Plus, it’s wonderful to see the level of sportsmanship,” Broyles said. “All of the competitors from opposing teams treat each other with kindness.”

“There are many ways to get involved,” Broyles said about Special Olympics. “Even if it’s coming to support practices once a month. You can coach, health professionals can offer time to Healthy Athletes and corporations can get involved as sponsors. You’ll build connections with people with intellectual disabilities that will open you mind and your heart.”

Nour Masoud • Defender

Nour Masoud, Special Olympics Egypt Unified partner, says her first trip to the United States to participate in the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 has been nothing short of enjoyable. “Whether we win or lose, it is fun playing together and supporting the athletes with intellectual disabilities,” Masoud said. Masoud plays football (soccer) at her local sports club and was introduced to Special Olympics through her school’s Special Olympics Youth program. That experience led her to the position of co-captain of her team. Coach Fajza Rahim says Masoud’s compassion and ability to motivate all the players made her a natural fit for the leadership role.

Dumitru Iosivoiu • Defender

Special Olympics Romania defender, Dumitru Iosivoiu, ended the week at the Special Olympics United Cup Detroit 2022 earning two of his team’s overall six goals. Ultimately, Romania went on to win the silver medal in the men’s Division 2 final, with one goal against Special Olympics Saudi Arabia’s three. This is Iosivoiu’s first trip to the United States and his first time participating in a major Special Olympics event. In the short time he’s been playing with the team, Iosivoiu says he has learned a lot from his teammates with intellectual disabilities. “They are incredible. They push me harder and help me be a better person on and off the field,” Iosivoiu said. “I am honored to be selected to play. I look forward to hopefully coming back.” Iosivoiu was invited to join the national team by his university professor. Iosivoiu said the Unified Cup experience has helped him communicate better with others, improve his sportsmanship skills and brough new friends into his life.

Vito Villasoto • Defender

Traveling 9,000 miles for the first time, Singapore’s own Vito Villasoto is thrilled to make his first trip to the United States for the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022. As the youngest player representing Singapore, Villasoto says Special Olympics changed his life at an early age. He loves to be included by his teammates on and off the field. While training, he is able to work on his skills with his teammates, his largest supporters. As a defender, Villasoto loves being able to block passes. He enjoys the thrill of assisting goalkeepers. While off the field, Villasoto has enjoyed his first trip to Detroit and bonding with other Special Olympics Delegations. He hopes to continue playing soccer as long as he can with Singapore, as it makes him a happier person.

Clemente Salina • Defender

Clemente Salinas joined Special Olympics at age 14 and his since competed in the Special Olympics Paraguay National Games. The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 marks his first time competing on an international level. As co-captain of the Special Olympics Paraguay squad, he is proud a how his teammates worked together to make it to the Division 1 championship game against Special Olympics Jamaica to be held on 6 August. He feels that people back in his home country can learn through the team how to live inclusively. “We carry the message that people of all abilities can come together in the spirit of camaraderie.”

Clemente Salinas is the co-captain of the Special Olympics Paraguay competing at the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022.

Aymane Khechab • Goalie

Aymane Khechab is new to the Special Olympics world. As goalkeeper, he helped lead his team in their 3-0 victory over Team USA. He has been playing football since he could walk and had seen himself grow significantly these last six months while training with Team Morocco. During the last six months, he has grown very close to his team. During his training, he suffered from a knee injury, which left him sidelined for a month. With help from his teammates and coaches, he made a quick recovery and was eager to play in the Unified Cup. “It is an honor to represent Morocco. I am happy to be here and confident that Morocco will make our country proud. Khechab is very proud of his team and their continuous hard work. He said they practiced 2 times a week for 6 months. These last few months have shown him what hard work and dedication can do to a team. The continued sportsmanship, acceptance, and happiness of his teammates will be something he cherishes forever.

James Yeck • Healthy Hearing Screenings

James Yeck of Grand Rapids Michigan has been involved in Special Olympics for over 20 years. He has competed in bowling, softball, and soccer and has spent the last 15 years as an athlete leader. Although not participating in the Unified Cup, he was invited to participate in a Healthy Athletes screening. Yeck was given a new pair of glasses and upon learning that he needed hearing aids was personally fitted for a pair by Starkey Cares. James was thrilled to learn that not only was he receiving hearing aids, but with the Bluetooth enabled devices, he was able to watch videos on YouTube and make phone calls without having to hold his microphone directly in his ear—true accessibility in motion. With his newly enhanced ability to hear, he immediately called his mother to tell her not only could he hear better, but he was able to hear squeaks from sneakers, people talking to him from a distance and voices from multiple individuals around him.

Dale Moss: Celebrity and Champion for Change • Special Olympics Ambassador

Former NFL Player and current Special Olympics Ambassador, Dale Moss, has spent most of his life being involved with Special Olympics. Moss was first introduced to the movement by his sister, Amber, a South Dakota athlete.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Moss became involved in a more formal role, as a Special Olympics Ambassador. It was this role, and his passion for sports, that brought Moss to Michigan for the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022.

A former NFL Chicago Bears player, Moss is a natural athlete. Saturday, 6 August, he’ll trade in the turf for time on the pitch, participating in the Unified Celebrity Match at 1:00 p.m. at Keyworth Stadium. Moss will take the field alongside fellow Special Olympics Ambassadors such as ESPN’s Victoria Arlen.

“I am nervous,” Moss admitted. “I am comfortable playing American football, but not football (soccer) as the rest of the world knows it.” It’s playing alongside athletes and fellow Special Olympics supporters that has Moss excited. “It’s nice to be back,” he said. “We have not had in-person events for a number of years, so being in Detroit is something I have been looking forward to.”
Maumouni Naon giving an athlete a high-5

Maumouni Naon • Head Coach

In Maumouni Naon’s 12 years as a Special Olympics Burkina Faso football coach, he has coached the national team at three Special Olympics World Games: Los Angeles, Austria and Abu Dhabi. As head coach for the women’s football team competing at the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022, he is looking for his players to take the momentum from being number one in Group C into the Division 1 semifinal game against Guatemala on 4 August at the Corner Ballpark. Naon enjoys traveling and getting to meet coaches and athletes from around the world. But even more than that, he is proud to see how his athletes and Unified partners help each other to be better on and off the field. Naon, who works with FIFA and CAF (Confederation of African Football), says, “I am passionate about helping those with intellectual disabilities be included in the rest of society.”

Tatiana Sirejova • Midfieder/Forward/Co-Captain

As co-captain for the Special Olympics Slovakia football (soccer) team, Tatiana Sirejova takes a leadership role on and off the field. On 4 August at the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 women’s Division 2 semifinals at the Corner Ballpark, she came out strong scoring a goal in the first minute of the match against Special Olympics Caribbean contributing to a 2-0 win. Sirejova says as co-captain, she helps lead training sessions and foster inclusive team spirit. She has this advice for anyone interested in joining a Unified sports team as a partner. “It’s not easy at first but you get lots of life experiences and make good friends.”

FAIR GAME: The Meaning Behind Meaningful Inclusion Unified Reporters

Special Olympics Australia athlete and footballer, Benjamin Haack, a participant in the inaugural Special Olympics Unified Cup in the 2018 50th anniversary celebration in Chicago, Illinois, USA, asks, “While the teams are Unified – is the playing time?”Haack’s taking to the pitch this week, to track the possession of each athlete player on the field. In Special Olympics, “I’m not tracking athletes or Unified partners, only players,” Haack said. Whether or not the player has intellectual disabilities is not relevant to Haack. He sees everyone on the field as equals and that truly encompasses what Special Olympics and playing unified is all about. Haack’s overall goal is to strive for meaningful inclusion: knowing that everyone has an understanding of each player’s role, in order to succeed as a team. For example, to other football spectators, if a player on the Special Olympics Guatemala team scores four goals in a single match, it may seem like one player is dominating; however, Haack focuses on the entire play. When each member on the team has the opportunity to actively participate in match play, the team has achieved meaningful inclusion.

Emanuelle “Manu” Dutra • Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger

Special Olympics Brazil athlete, footballer, athlete leader, and Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger Emanuelle “Manu” Dutra can now add international tournament trophy designer to her resume. At the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022, Emanuelle unveiled the trophy for the first time. The process began with the development and distribution of a survey to all athletes who competed in the 2018 Special Olympics Unified Cup in Chicago, Illinois, USA. With the results of the survey in hand, Manu and the committee met with Society Awards to design the trophy. The goal was to incorporate the Special Olympics Flame of Hope, and elements of inclusion and diversity into an elegant, professional design. The flames emerge from a group of hands symbolizing teamwork and inclusion. In her Opening Ceremony speech, Manu explained that the trophy represents, “The flames that burn inside [Special Olympics athletes] that will never be wiped out by people that do not believe in our capacity and do not respect us.”

Kyung Il Kang • Forward

Kyung Il Kang of Korea knows a thing or two about adversity. He’s been facing it square in the face from the moment of his first breath. Kyung Il was given up for adoption at birth and spent his entire childhood at the Holt Children’s Center, a place where orphaned and vulnerable children are cared for. Last year, Kyung Il began living in a group home with other young adults with intellectual disabilities where he was introduced to the Goyang Rehabilitation Sports Center, one of Special Olympics Korea’s Unified Sports clubs. Kyung Il discovered a passion for football (soccer) and quickly caught onto the sport. Playing unified showed him a new way to make friends, improve his confidence and develop his communication skills. In just one year, Kyung Il is now winning the battle against his lifelong anxiety disorder through the sport of football. Trainers and coaches in Korea took a special eye to Kyung Il’s game and offered him an opportunity to try out for the national delegation competing at the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022 tournament. It wasn’t just Kyung Il’s game which impressed the team organizers. His attitude, dedication, and commitment to a sport which he had just began training for last year was inspiring.

David Foess • Official

David Foess has been impressed with the level of play on the first day of Men’s matches at the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 on 1 August. During half-time of the Special Olympics Morocco versus Special Olympics Korea game he shared, “All the players had good ability to play the ball. There were no glaring holes at all.” Foess became a volunteer with Special Olympics 20 years ago and has appreciated the opportunity to give back. “Though in truth, the athletes give back to me more than I give them.” To become an official, he took a 30-hour class training course and then started out by officiating smaller events. This is his first Unified Cup tournament. Foess wants everyone to know this about Special Olympics, “Everyone is the same regardless of ability. We all want to play hard and have fun.”

Jilary García • Defender

Special Olympics Costa Rica Unified partner Jilary Garcia has been playing football since she was seven-years old even though for many in her country, it was not a girl's sport. However, while her classmates played with dolls, she managed to turn any plastic bottle or cardboard container into a football in order to enjoy her passion to the fullest. The unconditional support of Garcia’s father has marked the path with him always present and ready to take her to training or practice with her at home. Above all, he believed in her as his daughter’s great dream started coming true; and it’s just beginning. Today, at 17 years old, Garcia’s perseverance, persistency, empowerment and willingness opened the doors to being part of the Special Olympics Costa Rica National Team as a Unified partner. The unique experience has given her the opportunity to travel outside of Costa Rica, meet people from all over the world, play Unified football and be part of a movement that is changing the world. The 2022 Special Olympics Unified Cup in Detroit is Garica´s first international competition as a Unified partner. Costa Rica’s first match of the tournament against Special Olympics Egypt on 1 August resulted in a 0-0 draw. Garcia made three shots on goal and one assist. Garcia says she is looking forward to continuing to forge friendships, meeting new people and especially having fun and competing with her team.

Yoselinee García Calderón • Goalie

Yoselinee was invited five years ago to join and compete in Special Olympics in swimming and basketball in Mexico City. After a year of training, her basketball coach invited her to participate on a Unified Team for the 2018 Special Olympics Unified Cup in Chicago. Yoselinee went to Club América for training sessions and didn’t even know anything about football! She started to learn the ins and outs of being a goalie, and made sure to put in twice the effort so she could be well prepared for Chicago. She is still playing football in Club América, and managed to become more independent and sure of herself, training four days a week and focusing hard to become a better goalkeeper. While in Detroit, Yoselinee has made 11 total saves for the three matches: First match: 4 saves; Second match: 3 saves and today’s match: 4 saves!

Mohammed Aldawsari • Midfielder (Jersey: #12)

For Mohammed Aldawsari, playing in the Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 is part of living out his dream of becoming a professional football (soccer) player. As he puts it “I live, eat and breathe football.” Joy was the number one emotion he felt after Saudia Arabia’s first game of the tournament on 1 August 2022 against Singapore. Saudia Arabia defeated Singapore 1-0 in a match in which Aldawsari played for 40 minutes and had one shot on goal. Unified partner Khalid Al Zeid made the only goal of the game. Despite the win, Aldawsari keeps a level head. “As a team, we are so excited but we’re not finished yet. We have to win three more matches.” He was most impressed by his teammate’s willingness to work together. Follow the action to find out if Aldawsari and Special Olympics Saudi Arabia advance past the group stage!
Young female adult keeper standing on the pitch.

Radoslava “Radi” Papadopoulos • Goalie/Co-Captain

One of the early superstars to emerge from Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 is Special Olympics Utah athlete Radoslava “Radi” Papadopoulos. As the Special Olympics USA Women’s co-captain goalkeeper, she was instrumental in USA’s 3-1 win over Special Olympics Egypt during the first game of the tournament on 31 July. “I wasn’t nervous playing today,” Raddy shared. “I feel pretty good about the win.”

Papadopoulos made eight saves during a game that could have ended very differently otherwise. USA teammates Dominique DeHerrera, Shelby Reines and Vienna Lundstedt made a goal each.

Papadopoulos was born in Bulgaria before being adopted at age 12 and moving to Salt Lake City, Utah. The 17-year old first started playing football (Soccer) with her friends in Bulgaria and joined Special Olympics while attending West Lake High School in Salt Lake.

Keep following the matches to find out if Radi Papadopoulos wins the *Golden Glove at the end of the tournament. *Golden Glove given to the best goalkeeper of the tournaments according to performance, rather than goals conceded.