Team Kenya to the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup scheduled for Chicago, USA from July 21-23 leaves the country Sunday for the competitions that will see the Kilifi-based side face Brazil, USA, Illinois and Slovakia in the group stages as Special Olympics celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
The team of 10 girls under the tutelage of Nicholas Kai is composed of five players who have intellectual disabilities (ID) and five who don’t. The side landed the opportunity as part of Special Olympics Kenya’s projects funded by FIFA and Kilifi county was selected as one of the pilot areas for sports development for the population with ID. While calling on Kenyans to support the girls who will be the only female team from Africa in the competition, Special Olympics Kenya national director Susan Masila urged parents of children with ID not to hide them as there is help for such children to grow and fit into the society.
“By drawing young people to attention to the gifts of people with ID through sports and other activities, misconceptions are broken, negative attitudes tackled and their tremendous potential is highlighted,” said Masila.
The team will kick off the games against Brazil on July 17, do duty against USA Illinois the following day before completing their group matches with a clash against Slovakia. The top two teams will proceed to the semi-finals.
“I have trust in my players and despite the tough pool we are going for nothing short of a medal.
My players have refused to let their developmental conditions become insurmountable obstacles and their non-disabled team-mates are set on changing peoples’ attitudes toward people with ID. Winning in Chicago will go a long way in spreading that message to the world,” said coach Kai, a teacher at Kanjura Primary School in Kilifi.