An estimated 50,000 players with intellectual disabilities have taken part in more than 400 football events in 45 countries throughout Europe and Central Asia.
The focus has been on developing female football within the Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia (SOEE) movement as a tool for breaking down barriers between people with and without intellectual disabilities. More than 5,000 Special Olympics female footballers from 20 countries competed in Unified Football events with footballers without intellectual disabilities.
"European Football Week is an opportunity for the football community to come together and do something to create more opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in football," said Mary Davis, managing director of SOEE. "We enjoy great support from UEFA, as well as national football federations and football clubs, to ensure the success of the week."
"Through a long-term partnership with the UEFA We Care Programme, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia continues to achieve significant progress towards the expansion of football opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities," the organisation added.
SOEE works with half a million athletes in 58 countries around Europe and Eurasia (western and eastern Europe, and Central Asia), providing year-round training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It encourages continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with family, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Globally, Special Olympics exists in 175 countries, giving life-changing benefits to more than 3.1 million athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Football is now the most popular of the 31 official sports offered by SOEE with a total of 111,236 registered footballers across 58 countries. The number of registered female footballers in Europe and Central Asia has grown from 5,058 in 2003 to 20,471 today.
Visit specialolympics-eu.org for more information on Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia.
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