UEFA's #EqualGame campaign, which promotes diversity, inclusion and accessibility in football, was a focal point for enthusiastic fans at the Champions Festival in the Spanish capital.
Article top media content
Football's wonderful diversity and power as a force for social good has been celebrated at the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid.
Under the banner of Respect, UEFA's #EqualGame campaign, which promotes diversity, inclusion and accessibility in football, was a focal point at the Champions Festival in the Spanish capital.
#EqualGame seeks to demonstrate that football is open to all, irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, social background or religious beliefs – and a series of events in Madrid engaged fans and brought the campaign and its values into the spotlight.
At the #EqualGame zone on Madrid's Puerta del Sol, visitors were able to gain first-hand experience of the importance of social inclusion in football.
UEFA's social responsibility partners spoke with fans about their projects and programmes in the fields of accessibility, colour blindness, child safeguarding, health and tackling discrimination.
Among the attractions on offer, visitors were able to win UEFA Champions League prizes, and test their football skills by shooting at an interactive #EqualGame football wall.
Fanny Bellier, project manager for child safeguarding in football at Terre des hommes, said that the UEFA Champions League final had provided an ideal opportunity for the organisation to open fans' eyes and talk to them about Terre des hommes' work and activities.
"Making sport and football safer is our collective responsibility," she said, "and everyone has a role to play. Being able to engage thousands of people with that message is a vital platform for us."
Matthew Philpott, executive director of the European Healthy Stadia Network, spoke of the privilege of meeting fans from all over the world at the #EqualGame zone.
"Our mission is to use football as an educational vehicle to educate fans of all ages about the benefits of leading an active and healthy lifestyle," he said.
"We were amazed at the positive response we received from parents, and particularly children, when we spoke to them about maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and some of the dangers associated with overconsumption of alcohol."
Meanwhile, at the famous Plaza Mayor, three football legends – Brazil's Cafú and Roberto Carlos, and Portugal's Luís Figo – turned out to show their support for the Football for all Abilities match programme.
The matches featured amputee football, blind football, cerebral palsy football, Special Olympics football, Homeless World Cup football and powerchair football. The aim was to emphasise that although people are different, everyone can find common ground in their love of the game.
All of the participating organisations are official football social responsibility partners of UEFA – Homeless World Cup, Special Olympics, the International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football, the International Blind Sports Federation, the European Amputee Football Federation and the European Powerchair Football Association.
Fascinated fans watched Cafú, Roberto Carlos and Figo playing football on crutches. Amputee footballers and #EqualGame ambassadors Barış Telli and Keeley Cerretti joined the three legends to play football and take penalties.
The legends also participated in taking penalty kicks while blindfolded to simulate the experience of a blind footballer.
Figo admitted in particular that taking penalties while blindfolded was a tougher proposition than he had imagined: "Taking part in this kind of activity gives you a respect for the people who play blind football," he said.
"I watch these guys and it amazes me – their ability, their judgement, it's very special. It's always an honour for us guys to be able to help promote something like blind football."
Visit the #EqualGame website to find out more.