Albania's national team has given its backing to autism awareness, visiting a centre near Tirana to meet parents, children and the president of the Albanian Children's Foundation.
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The Albanian national team is supporting a campaign by the Albanian Children's Foundation to raise awareness of youngsters living with autistic spectrum disorder and help them integrate into society.
Accompanied by the vice-president of the Football Federation of Albania (FShF) Edvin Libohova, general secretary Ilir Shulku and national team coach Christian Panucci, the players visited the regional centre for autism near Tirana, where they were hosted by the foundation's president, Liri Berisha, and met children and their parents.
Liri Berisha thanked the FShF for this strong message of support. "The national team players are our country's best ambassadors for raising awareness and spreading compassion to children."
"We may be the national team, but first and foremost we are people and we are parents," coach Panucci said. "We want to give these children a smile today, but also to bring them hope. We join the call for awareness of autism. Sport has shown it always supports such extremely significant and sensitive issues. We are greatly honoured to have been invited to meet these fantastic children."
After a tour of the facilities, the players improvised a quick football match with the older children and exchanged their team jerseys for the foundation's. The players and foundation staff also encouraged people to join the Light It Up Blue campaign, an international initiative aimed at boosting public and government awareness of autism and calling for more support for individuals affected by this disorder.
This article appeared originally in UEFA Direct 177