SOJ footballers hunt top prize in Unified Cup finale
Jamaica supporters at the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup in Michigan on Thursday, August 4, 2022. (Photo: Collin Reid courtesy of Digicel Foundation and Courts)

JAMAICA'S footballers will be on the hunt for top spot when they take on Paraguay in the division one final of the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup in Michigan on Saturday.

Kick-off is set for 2:15 pm Jamaica time.

The Shane Richards-coached Jamaicans, who have won every match so far, should enter the contest with a psychological edge, knowing they defeated Paraguay 4-0 when the teams met earlier in the tournament.

But Assistant Coach Fadil Lee is cautioning against complacency against the Paraguayans who clipped Brazil 1-0 to reach the final.

Special Olympics Jamaica's Joel Palmer (right) gets away from Kartasse Brahim of Morocco during their Unified Football Cup semi-final match at Schoolcraft College in Michigan on Thursday, August 4, 2022.Photo: Collin Reid courtesy of Digicel Foundation and Courts

"We are looking forward to this final and we expected it to be a hard battle because, this is a final. Our victory over them in the group stage has no impact on how we have prepared going into the game," he told the Jamaica Observer.

"We are expecting an exciting encounter and we hope to give the country more reasons to smile while celebrating our 60th year of Independence," he added in reference to Jamaica's Independence from British rule on August 6, 1962.

The Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) football team, which was second to France in division two in Chicago four years ago, has been dominant at the 2022 edition, racking up wins over Paraguay, Romania (3-0), Saudi Arabia (3-0), Singapore (10-0) and Morocco (1-0).

However, Lee said it has been a "tough" road.

"We haven't conceded but some of these have been tough games. Against Morocco in Thursday's semi-final it was another tough game, made even more difficult by an untimely injury to one of our midfield mainstays Rickeldeano Williams. But, we dug in and prevailed thanks to Joel Palmer's goal with practically the last kick of the game," he said.

The unified sports programme, a focus of the Special Olympics movement, combines people with intellectual disabilities and those without disabilities in training and competition.

Through sport activities and competition the Special Olympics International movement aims to break down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and Down's syndrome, from mainstream society.

Sanjay Myers

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