Sport has the power to inspire a change in the world, top international footballers said after being part of the Unified Sports Experiences of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi.
Brazilian legend and former captain Cafu and former Ivory Coast captain and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba played against each other but with special athletes on their sides at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Friday.
The players felt inspired by the passion displayed by the athletes. At the end of the match, the star footballers thanked the special athletes for allowing them to be part of their teams.
Drogba put things into perspective very nicely.
"World Games is about spreading the message of inclusiveness but actually today they have chosen to include us. They wanted us to be part of the game, to know exactly who they are and show what they are capable of. You see, they played with more passion than us," he said after the match held in Play and Live Unified Field zone.
Africa's star footballer said a whole lot can be achieved through sports.
"In my country and many others, sport has helped to achieve peace. Sport is a powerful ambassador of peace."
He said the UAE was setting example for others with the games in the 'Year of Tolerance'.
"Sometimes we forget about tolerance. It is important for us to listen to them. I get inspired when I come to these events. Most of the times, when you miss an opportunity to score a goal you are upset but these athletes miss a chance, they stand up and try again. This is what life is all about. You never give up. This is life lessons," Drogba said.
He urged people to join the movement of inclusiveness, acceptance and tolerance.
"Through sports, we can achieve so much together. You have 200 nations here. Imagine what it was 50 years ago when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started this. How she managed to spread the message of tolerance through sport is amazing," Drogba added.
Meanwhile, Cafu, who is the only player to have appeared in three consecutive World Cup finals, said football can be used to spread awareness all around the world.
"Sport is a great tool to unify communities. Especially, football has the power to do that." Cafu said events like Special Games boosted confidence of special athletes.
"This is an important event to give exposure and a platform for these athletes to be part of sports and bring out their talents in front of the world.
This helps to demonstrate their importance to the world."
Cafu is the most internationally capped Brazilian player of all time and lifted the World Cup twice but he said that winning isn't always important. For him it didn't matter how many Brazilian athletes clinched medals here, as everyone was a winner. "Special Olympics Brazil is here is itself a victory for all."
Cafu felt that playing with the special athletes will make them feel important.
"I hope that both of us can inspire these kids on the field to feel important. I hope we can help them achieve their objectives. I hope they try harder and harder to realise their aim. If by participating here we can make a little contribution in their journey, then that's the most important thing," he said.
Special athletes were all excited to be part of the event.
By Ashwani Kumar
Copyright © 2019 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.