Special Olympics welcomes soccer legends, Didier Drogba, Hidetoshi Nakata, and Zico to take part in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by TOYOTA on 17-20 July at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, USA. The famed footballers will participate alongside 24 Special Olympics Unified football teams during the four-day competition, which consist of players with and without intellectual disabilities (see tournament groupings in Notes to the Editor).
“It is an honor to take part in the Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota,” said Hidetoshi Nakata, Special Olympics Global Ambassador. “I know from experience how sports can empower athletes to be leaders on and off the field, and I am excited for the world to witness the talent and leadership of Special Olympics athletes and their Unified teammates.”
Though Special Olympics has made great strides since its founding in 1968, a study conducted by Kantar found that only 32 percent of respondents fully believe that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of playing sports on a team with people without intellectual disabilities. At the Unified Cup, international football (soccer) legends will take the field with Special Olympics Unified soccer teams to showcase the transformative power of sport on the global stage.
“At Toyota, we are committed to supporting the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society where everyone feels empowered to ‘start their impossible’ and realize their best selves” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager, Toyota division. “We believe that sports, in particular, has the ability to remove societal barriers and allow individuals to experience the freedom that comes with movement, which we are passionate about as a mobility company. Special Olympics is a perfect partner in realizing these objectives, and we are proud to have a role in supporting the Unified Cup. We look forward to sharing its powerful message with as many people as possible.”
Each Unified football (soccer) team will be joined by high-level club sponsors, uniting elite athletes and football federations to fight discrimination on the playing field. The final matches will be broadcast live on ESPN2, marking the first-ever live primetime broadcast of a Special Olympics Unified Sports competition (see broadcast details in Notes to the Editor).
“The Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota represents the unrelenting spirit of the Special Olympics movement,” said Mary Davis, Special Olympics CEO. “Our athletes invite the world to spark a revolution for inclusion – a peaceful protest against discrimination, breaking down barriers to unite people of all abilities and backgrounds through sport.”
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