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Special Win for Footballers at Olympics

 
The Special Olympics Football boys celebrating their victory over Belize that ensured their progress to the finals. (Photo: Special Olympics Singapore)
 
Special win for footballers at Olympics

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” - Special Olympics oath.

The Singapore five-a-side football team did just that by winning the gold in the Special Olympics World Sumer Games in Athens, Greece.

The boys in red put in a brave performance in the final as they beat Chile 3-2 in a penalty shootout.

It was a very successful tournament for Team Singapore as they won a total of 37 medial at the Special Olympics - five more than the previous Games in 2007.

Held once every four years, the 46 Singapore athletes raked in 12 gold, 13 silver and 12 bronze medals.

This year, Singapore attained gold in categories like aquatics, athletics and bowling. Singapore also took part in the half-marathon for the first time - winning gold and silver.

Held for the first time in 1968 in Chicago, the Special Olympics are for adults and children with intellectual disabilities and nearly 7,000 athletes from 170 countries took part in this year’s edition.

The footballers, who train weekly with volunteer coaches Gabriel Tan, Amir Hamzah and Dave Tay, ended the tournament unbeaten.

Needing a win against Belize, the team showed great mental strength by beating them 3-2 with a last minute goal to seal qualification to the final against Chile.

“We were 2-0 up and Belize came back to 2-2 and we had to win the game to enter the finals. We scored the winning goal in the last minute and it was very emotional for us. They showed a lot of passion in the matches and the boys are very sincere and honest in everything they do. They showed a lot of heart in the tournament and it is very fulfilling to us coaches,” said coach Tan.

The coaches not only guide the players on the pitch but they try to mentor them off the pitch as well.

“These kids are not physically disabled but they are intellectually disabled. We try and help them get past some of these problems that they encounter through the football training,”

“I don’t look at myself as only a football coach to them. I am also their mentor. The kids sometimes feel that we are the best person to help them out and they often come to us for help,” added coach Hamzah.

Looking towards the future, the coaches believe that the players should be taking part in more tournaments, especially in the mainstream tournaments.

“The team recently participated in the Singapore Youth Festival Games, which they took part in the open category where they played against adults.

“It was a great exposure and experience for them and they did us proud by coming in fourth.”