Sports

Footballers get ready for Special Olympics Unified Cup in Chicago

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) has announced its squad to participate among teams from 20 countries at the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup to be staged in the United States in July.

The football competition forms part of the global celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Special Olympics Games.

The Unified Cup, set to run from July 17 — 22, will be hosted inside Chicago's Soldier Field Stadium, the location of the 1968 Games.

The other countries set to participate are United States, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, South Korea, China, Bangladesh, India, United Arab Emirates, France, Russia, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Nigeria and Kenya.

The Special Olympics unified sports programme offers people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play alongside those without intellectual disabilities for sports training and competition.

The SOJ delegation will be led by Lennox Christie, the SOJ director of football. He will be assisted by Nicholas Ford, who also has responsibility for the medical welfare of the team.

Head coach duty will be carried out by Shane Richards. He guided Windsor Primary to the top of the primary school football competition and has over 15 years' experience coaching special athletes. Former premier league referee Malachi Brown is the assistant coach.

Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts has been invited by Special Olympics International as an honorary guest.

The Jamaica team is made up of nine special athletes and seven unified partners all aged between 16 and 25. The athletes have been playing together for over five years and have been playing numerous practice matches against local teams in preparation for the Toyota-sponsored Unified Cup.

The special athletes hail from varying institutions across the island, including Windsor School of Special Education, Abilities Foundation, Carberry Court Special School and Randolph Lopez School of Hope. The unified partners were largely drafted from local football club Santos, the Windsor community in St Catherine, and SOJ major sponsor Digicel.

Jamaica are slated to open their account against Nigeria on July 17. The Jamaicans are also grouped with Italy and Japan. The semi-finals and final are to be aired live on the ESPN sports network.

The Special Olympics movement focuses on breaking down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities from mainstream society. The intellectual disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, autism and traumatic brain injury.

Squad:

Special athletes: Damion Gordon, Allan Gordon, Rodricka Beckford, Renaldo Hunter, Carey Rowe, Kemar Jones, Treyvaughn Isaacs, Shane Sewell, Ricardo Saunders.

Unified partners: Moran Singh, Tajay Able, Lance Rutherford, Andrade Hunt, Clive Jarrett, Shawn Beckford, Shaquon Beckford.

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