Children with disabilities will now have the opportunity to be more inclusive in sports, mainly football.
This was after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Special Olympics Fiji and Fiji Football Association and the Just Play Kids Programme yesterday.
Special Olympics Fiji chairman Bishwa Sidal said the MOU is the first step in their plans to get different sporting organisations to include children and adults with disabilities in the sport.
“For Special Olympics Fiji and athletes with disabilities all around the country, I think this is a historical day,” Sidal said.
“We have been in existence for a long time, people with disabilities have been taking part in sports in their own small sheltered groups but the world is changing and becoming more unified and more inclusive.
“The Special Olympics movement is dedicated to that concept of playing, staying and enjoying life together and that goes in line with our constitution.
“Special Olympics movement through sports have been changing lives for these special athletes and we have seen results through our international para competitions where we have had athletes win gold medals in events that ordinary athletes are still trying to win medals in.
“Football is a sport played throughout the country and around the world and athletes or children with disabilities are no exception.
“What we are trying to do, as part of Special Olympics is to change the minds of people, let’s not play separately, let’s play together.
“We have made a start but the signing today will enhance the programme that is already existing in special schools.
“By partnering with Fiji Football, I think athletes with special needs will be really looked after well and I think the whole idea is for us to form partnerships and we hope that it will come to a stage where all athletes will include athletes with disabilities.
“Our philosophy is that we want everyone included in sports and this MOU is a good opportunity to have our athletes and players who are playing behind doors to come out into the community and be inclusive in these programmes set up by Fiji FA.”
Fiji FA chief executive officer Mohammed Yusuf said they are committed to involving children with disabilities and are looking to seek funds from FIFA to set up programmes for them as well.
“Fiji FA has agreed to continue with our partnership with the disabled school and association, going forward we would like to do more for these children so they can, at all times, feel included in the daily life of an ordinary Fijian,” Yusuf said.
“Sports is one way we can cheer them up and Fiji FA is also looking at avenues where we want to seek funds from FIFA to further help the needs of these kids where we can have more programmes and have experts come over involving these children in learning and playing football.
“Fiji FA has always been a great supporter in allowing free access to these kids to come and watch games and they can do so when the Fiji FACT starts next week.
“We are committed to this partnership and look at ways to provide more for these kids.”