On Tuesday, 2 July, Wembley Stadium played host to the annual 5-a-side football match between Special Olympics East Herts Football Team and the UK Parliamentary Team. Keeping them in check was referee and Sky Sports regular, legendary football pundit Dermot Gallagher.
The annual football match aims to raise awareness for Special Olympics GB 2013 National Summer Games, taking place in Bath this summer. The Special Olympics athletes, who will be heading to Bath for the Games, battled it out with the Parliamentarians in the Lawrie McMenemy 2013 Challenge; Ashley West, Joel Weeks, Nathan Collett, Matthew Philpott and Alfie Sherwood. The opposing line up on the UK Parliamentary Football Team included Graham Evans, Mark Spencer, Russell Brown and Gavin Barwell with Clive Betts captaining the team.
Special Olympics East Herts football team played Unified Football, with half the team made up of people with an intellectual disability and the other half made up of people without an intellectual disability.
The 2013 National Summer Games, from 28 August – 1 September, will see around 1,700 Special Olympics athletes descend onto Bath, including almost 250 of the best of British footballers with intellectual (learning) disabilities. The Games are a critical event for those athletes aiming to compete in the Special Olympics European Games in Antwerp, 2014 or in the World Games in Los Angeles, 2015.
CEO of Special Olympics Great Britain, Karen Wallin, said: “Football is the world’s most popular sport yet it is estimated that only one in 500 people with an intellectual disability are given the chance to play the game as they are often seen by their peers as ‘different’ or ‘without ability’. Unified football helps to raise awareness of athlete’s abilities, not their disabilities.”
Graham Evans, MP for Weaver Vale, said: “Now in it’s second year, this match is a highlight of our sporting calendar and the East Herts Special Olympics Team certainly put us through our paces! We are proud to support Special Olympics GB and excited about the 9th Annual Games in Bath this summer.”
Photos courtesy of Michi Ferreol.