A unique bond has formed between South Australia’s Special Olympics athletes and the Middle Eastern country which hosted the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in March.
The Ambassador of the UAE, His Excellency Abdulla Al Subousi, travelled from Canberra to Rostrevor College to shake hands with eight of the 11 SA athletes who brought home gold medals from the UAE games.
The backdrop to the official visit was a colourful and enthusiastic ‘World Cup’ soccer tournament involving 190 students with an intellectual disability from primary, secondary and special schools, supported by Rostrevor College students as coaches, mentors and referees.
It was the largest Special Olympics soccer event to be held in the 13 years it has been hosted by Rostrevor, with 22 teams playing on 11 pitches simultaneously in a celebration of inclusivity and diversity in sport.
Special Olympics State chair Tiffany Wilken said each school selected a nation to represent and was able to “taste the joy of team success”.
“Events like this combine sport, health, education and team camaraderie to empower people with intellectual disabilities and place a focus on what these young athletes can do, rather than what they can’t do,” Ms Wilken said.
Rostrevor College principal Brian Schumacher said the Special Olympics Soccer day was also enormously beneficial for the secondary students who helped run the tournament.
“For the Rostrevor students, they are experiencing helping someone living with a disability, which is something that everybody should have a chance to do at some stage in their lives,” Mr Schumacher said.
“It’s not only about helping others achieve their goals, but also about Rostrevor students playing their part in building a more inclusive society.
“It’s a lot more than games of soccer, it’s a celebration of unity and inclusion that combines mutual respect, excitement and inspiration for all participants.”
More than 100 Australian athletes competed in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in the UAE, including 11 South Australian athletes. The SA competitors brought home a swag of medals in basketball, athletics, bowling and swimming.
Mr Al Subousi, congratulated the SA team on helping make the games in Abu Dhabi such a great success and commended Special Olympics Australia and Rostrevor College for their commitment to inclusivity, tolerance and self-determination for all citizens.
Year 9 Rostrevor student Declan said he and his classmates enjoyed coaching, commentating, time-keeping, refereeing, motivating and generally encouraging and supporting the players.
“It feels really good giving these students the opportunity to feel really happy and for us to join in and have some fun as well,” he said.Jump to next article