Special athletes shine brightest at football match [Express Tribune]

Special athletes shine brightest at football match [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Special athletes were the stars of the show at a football match, which was staged at Aman Foundation on Friday to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in the society.

A collaboration of Aman Foundation, NOWPDP and Special Olympics of Pakistan (SOP), the event saw an Aman Foundation side play against TECH Qalandars in a thirty-minute six-a-side match, with both the sides composed of three special and three able-bodied players.

While the scoreline read 1-0 in TECH Qalandars’ favour, there were no losers on the day as the match’s goal transcended the sport and promoted the message of giving equal treatment to people with disabilities instead of shunning them.

Syed Muhammad Raza Zaidi, 2015 Special World Games Olympian Saddam Hussain, Muhammad Shahbaz and Muhammad Afaq were among the special athletes who took part in the match.

“I play football at school and also at the club,” Zaidi, who has also been to the 2011 Athens World Games, told The Express Tribune. “Our favourite player is Messi; we watch football and we love it, so we agreed to play this demonstration match.”

As per SOP Operations Manager Daniyal Alvi, the match, which doubled as the launching ceremony of Project SHAHPAR, will promote the idea that people with disabilities can also be an active part of the society, if presented with opportunities.

“It is a demonstration match to promote inclusiveness in our society, which is very necessary,” said Alvi. “We’ve also launched a vocation skills program for people with disabilities so that we can include them in our workforce.”

Meanwhile, Adil Visram, a special athlete himself and a key speaker at the 2007 World Games in China said that Special Olympic disciplines are more than just sports for them.

“People like us are constantly stared at,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable but we’ve come a long way. There is more for us to do now, more opportunities and this event is one of them.”

Published in The Express Tribune, 10 March 2017