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Special Olympics in the Copa América: Promoting Inclusion

Argentina’s captain, Lionel Messi, in Copa América 2024 opening match against Canada on 20 June.

In a significant gesture towards inclusion, the captains of all 16 teams competing in Copa América, held in the United States, will wear the captain's armband with the message "Choose to Include."

Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), has invited the captains to wear this band, symbolizing their commitment to inclusion and diversity. According to the invitation, "by wearing the captain's armband, you make the decision to believe big, to choose to include, to contribute to a world where everyone has the opportunity to play and enjoy football, to live full lives and to be valued members of a society."

Among the notable players who have accepted this invitation are Lionel Messi of Argentina (who plays in Miami during regular season) and Alphonso Davies of Canada, who showed their support during the tournament’s opening game.

"Thanks to the joint effort with CONMEBOL, people with disabilities are included in one of the largest sports tournaments in the region. There is still a long way to go in issues of inclusion, but this is a big step in one of the most emblematic sports in the world.”
Claudia Echeverry, President and Regional Director of Special Olympics Latin America

For Special Olympics, the message "Choose to Include" is more than just a phrase; it is a call to action to build a world where every person, regardless of their abilities, is valued and has the opportunity to fully participate in society. This message seeks to break down barriers and promote acceptance and respect.

Additionally, during several Copa América matches, people with intellectual disabilities will accompany the players to the field at the start of each match as part of a CONMEBOL initiative.

The inclusion philosophy promoted by Special Olympics and CONMEBOL since 2005, under the “Fútbol Somos Todos” alliance, uses soccer as a tool to build more inclusive and respectful communities. This alliance not only fosters solidarity and opportunity but also values people with intellectual disabilities for their unique qualities and talents.

Let's make inclusion a priority in our lives. Join us and choose to include. Together, we can build a more inclusive and supportive world.