Men's, women's football teams bow into action today at World Summer Games

Sanjay Myers
Sport Reporter
Special Olympics Summer Games

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) female and male football teams will bow into action today at the 2019 World Summer Games, even as some of their compatriots participated in divisioning encounters yesterday.

The male football team is scheduled to face South Africa in their group opener at Zayed Sports City Stadium. Before that , the females start off with a game against Serbia to determine which division they will be placed in.

SOJ Head Coach Shane Richards believes the male team's second-place finish in Division Two at last July's Unified Football Cup in Chicago, United States, is a foundation they can build on.

“We have a good bunch, including players who were in Chicago. The males are confident as a team, [but] we are not taking anything for granted,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“We didn't play against South Africa in Chicago but we played Nigeria, and we think the African countries will play similarly — with speed and physical ability like Jamaica.”

Richards, also responsible for the female footballers, said they are also expected to represent well in their first divisioning match against the Serbians.

“The female team is young, though I think we have two players from the last World Games [four years ago in Los Angeles] who are still with us. But all these girls, they are hungry and this is what we want — we want players who want to do it for their country,” he explained.

The divisioning system in Special Olympics allows organisers to assess the skill level of athletes and teams, thereby pitting them against others of similar competitive ability.

By levelling the playing field, the system ensures competitions are meaningful and empowering, and contributes to greater excitement for athletes and spectators.

Yesterday, the male and female volleyball teams as well as the badminton players got a taste of divisioning exercises.

The male volleyball team split two sets against Korea Republic and United States, respectively. The female team lost to Kenya, Russia and Peru.

Volleyball Head Coach Loran Grant was optimistic, despite the mixed results.

“Overall, I am proud of both teams. The divisioning games were [a] warm up for what is to come. The females did well in spite of the losses [and] they played to the end like true Jamaicans. The males shined and showed dominance on the court,” he told the Observer.

Up to press time yesterday, badminton player Janoy Daley won his two singles matches as well as a doubles encounter, while playing alongside unified partner Travis Ebanks.

Terry Walker, the badminton coach, was encouraged by what she saw.

“It went better than I expected…I feel confident that they'll do well because they are naturally competitive. It's really early, I don't want to make any predictions, but the vibe is good,” she said.

The Special Olympics unified sports programme offers people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play alongside those without intellectual disabilities for sports training and competition.

The 2019 Abu Dhabi Games will officially be opened tomorrow (Thursday) with a grand ceremony at Zayed Sports City, while the closing ceremony is scheduled for March 21.

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