Football for people with disabilities

The Israel Football Association (IFA) shares UEFA’s vision that football should be for everyone and, with this in mind, it decided to set up a new project in partnership with Special Olympics Israel.

'Unified Football'
'Unified Football' ©IFA

The Israel Football Association (IFA) shares UEFA’s vision that football should be for everyone and, with this in mind, it decided to set up a new project in partnership with Special Olympics Israel.

The goal of this ‘unified football’ project is to help the country’s learning disabled people feel equal and enable them to play alongside non-disabled players. Thanks to this project, both groups of players will learn to accept the other with all their differences.

This year the Israel Football Association started the project with three clubs, Hapoel Beer-Sheva in the south of the country, Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the centre and Maccabi Haifa in the north. A group of Under-16 players was selected in each club.

The clubs will hold unified training sessions with the disabled players, along with experiential and formal activities to create a sense of community.

In late May, an end-of-season tournament will be held at the Ramat Gan Stadium for the three clubs’ mixed teams. At the same time, there will be a festive event in the vicinity of the stadium for the players’ families and the general public.

By next year, the IFA intends to have three teams in each region and within two years it hopes to achieve five teams in each region. Further down the line, it would like to launch a special league or cup tournament for people with disabilities.

“The players’ reactions are amazing,” says Ziv Solomon, the director of the youth department, who is in charge of the project. “They are excited and admit that they would never have met these people with special needs in their day-to-day lives. The players also say that they will now try to be more tolerant and show leadership and will try to help those weaker and different from them.”

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 183

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