Southeast Asia Football Tournament for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities returns to Singapore 7 years after kick off

Southeast Asia Unified Football Tournament 2019

Close to 140 delegates from 7 countries took part in the Special Olympics Southeast Asia Unified 5-a-side Football Tournament held in Singapore, on 7 and 8 December 2019.

The lion city hosted the first edition back in 2012 with only 3 other countries taking part in the two-day event. Since its inauguration, the tournament has seen the addition of teams from across both the Asia Pacific and East Asia regions including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Hosted by Special Olympics Singapore and supported by Special Olympics Asia Pacific, Micron Foundation and the FWD Insurance Group, the event is a showcase of how the power of sport can foster mutual understanding, respect and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities.

The tournament welcomed athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to display their courage, passion and skills as part of a global movement to create positive change and drive social inclusion.

“There is no doubting the power of the beautiful game to elevate and unite. As we see time and time again around the world, football has the power to break down barriers, bring people together and celebrate the joy of competitive play like very few other sports. I look forward to an amazing display of skill and strength by our sportsmen and women with and without intellectual disabilities, as they inspire us and each other with their ability to constantly push themselves to greater heights.”
MR DIPAK NATALI, ACTING PRESIDENT AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL OLYMPICS ASIA PACIFIC

Special Olympics Singapore started the Outreach Sports Programme to allow people with intellectual disabilities who have graduated from school access to sports. Football was the first team sports to be introduced to the programme 20 years ago.

Captain Roger Loh, President of Special Olympics Singapore, said: “This year would have marked the 20th year of the Football Outreach Sports Programme. Our vision in Special Olympics Singapore is to see athletes with and without intellectual disabilities of all abilities develop holistically by providing quality programming through the 9 sports offering and 5 non-sporting initiative such as athlete leadership. The power of sport is able to foster mutual understanding, respect and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities. It also showcases how we can create positive change and bridge the social divide in Singapore, building a more inclusive future for all.”

Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Ms Grace Fu attended the Opening Ceremony of the tournament as Guest of Honour. She said: “Sport has the power to bring people of all abilities together. With support from corporate and community partners such as Special Olympics Singapore, we can provide more opportunities for persons with and without special needs to train and compete alongside one another as equals. Let’s continue to build a more inclusive society through sport."

The Opening Ceremony included an exhibition match of Unified teams consisting of corporate sponsors and Special Olympics athletes. Eight male and five female teams competed against one another in a powerful demonstration of inclusive sports in the tournament.

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