Special Olympics movement honours relationship with FAI
FAI commended for its long-standing policy of inclusion in European Football
Football Association of Ireland CEO, John Delaney, has been presented with an award in recognition of the organisation's long-standing partnership with Special Olympics Ireland.
Mr Delaney accepted the Special Olympics "appreciation award" on behalf of FAI staff at an official reception at the organisation's headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. The award recognises the FAI's policy of inclusion as well as the long-running partnership with Special Olympics Ireland.
Accepting the award, Mr Delaney commented: "I would like to thank the Special Olympics movement for this award. Our work with Special Olympics Ireland means a lot to everyone in the Association. Special Olympics Ireland were the first partner in our Football for All programme which has grown substantially to include over 25 partners running 13 separate football programmes. Our Football for All programme is led by Oisin Jordan and is assisted by Nick Harrison, involving all of our Development Officers throughout Ireland. As part of the Football for All programme, the Association continues to recognise the achievements of players with disabilities every year across nine international squads. I take this opportunity to recognise the Special Olympic Ireland's key role in helping us to establish this important aspect of our sport which has been embraced fully by our clubs and leagues."
The FAI and Special Olympics Ireland have been partners since the early 1980s when the sport's charity first started offering a football programme. Since then two organisations have worked closely to ensure the best possible opportunities are on offer to Special Olympics Ireland athletes as well as their coaching staff from grassroots up to international events. To date 128 international caps have been awarded to Special Olympics Ireland athletes with 105 coaches in our clubs obtaining coaching qualifications through the FAI.
The award was presented by Special Olympics Ireland CEO, Matt English, who paid tribute to the FAI for the wide-ranging support and resources they offer to athletes with an intellectual disability.
Speaking at the event, Mr English commented: "For well over 30 years the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has been a key supporter to Special Olympics in terms of coaching support, facilities and referees. Following the success of the football competitions at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the FAI took steps to further strengthen this partnership by incorporating the Football for All Programme as a key strategic area within the FAI which has reaped major benefits over the years for Special Olympics Ireland."
Frances Kavanagh, Senior Director of Sport added that the FAI has always been "hugely supportive" to the development of football for Special Olympics athletes and coaches. "It is particularly significant that this support extends from grassroots through to international players who are recognised similarly to any international player, by the awarding of international caps."
Football is one of Special Olympics Ireland's most popular sports with 79 teams taking part in regional 5-a-side events and leagues in 2013/2014 while 7 teams took part in the 11-a-side National League in 2013/2014