A football workshop for young athletes with special needs was held recently by the Palawan chapter of the Special Olympics Asia Pacific (SOAP) at the Ramon V. Mitra Sports Complex in Barangay Sta. Monica to provide them quality training and memorable experiences.

Special Olympics Philippines (SOP) is an organization that advocates the welfare of athletes with intellectual disabilities through the provision of quality sports training and athletic competitions.

Through these kinds of experiences, it aims to not only develop the physical fitness of the athletes but also encourage their growth, inclusion, confidence, and friendship.

This year, the organization partnered with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to hold the first of an annual football week, said Angie Mendoza, one of the core partners of the local chapter of the Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics will hold a football week yearly which is focused on raising awareness and creating social change through football. This is in line with the AFC’s project ‘Football for All’,” she said.

With the theme #PLAYUNIFIED, the first football workshop in July coincided with the Asian Football Week and was facilitated by many coaches and volunteers from the City Sports Department and Sitel Kabarkada, a community of Sitel employees and partners.

Christina Pierson of Sitel Kabarkada said their participation in the event was because they believe in the cause.

“We believe in the cause. We’d like to give back to the community by [promoting] diversity and inclusion,” she said.

The athletes were treated to a morning of drills and exercises leading up to a match between two teams that consisted of special needs athletes, volunteers, and coaches, which is in line with the SOP’s mission to foster their inclusion in their communities and encourage meaningful connections and friendships.

“Through this very popular sport, our Special Olympics athletes and their new friends enjoyed a very nice day on the field,” Mendoza said further.

Mendoza is hopeful that the clinic can be held regularly every Saturday from 7:30 to 9 a.m. with the help of the City Sports.