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Football for All

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Football for All

The Football for All Leadership Programme was started in 2018, designed to promote employability, entrepreneurship and networking for disabled people in the sports industry.

As the former baseball player and sports legend Tommy Lasorda says, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.” I believe that this quote applies to all aspects of our lives. Determination is the only thing that should limit our capacity to achieve our objectives and to reach our dreams.

With this thought in mind, we created the Football for All Leadership Programme in 2018. This programme consists of a course specifically designed to promote employability, entrepreneurship and networking for disabled people in the sports industry. Through this programme, we aim to ensure that everyone can reach their dream of working in sports, regardless of their ability or disability.  

Disabled people make up 15% of the global population; however, they are still not fairly represented in the sports world. In fact, disabled people continue to be unable to find equal access to sports.

This lack of equality can be faced at various stages. It starts from very early ages – disabled children desire to practice sports, but in many places around the world, their local clubs and sports fields are not accessible, thus barring them from participating in sports. The same happens at schools, where disabled children and teenagers are still unable to access sports facilities or take part in PE classes at an equal footing.

 At a competitive sports level, besides the lack of infrastructure and financial support that exists in most countries, disabled athletes face an extra problem – the non-existence of a common strategy for disabled sports.

From a European perspective, I believe that one of the biggest obstacles for the growth of disabled sports is the fact that there is no common path for the development of disabled sports. We still do not have a common agreement about the governing of disabled sports at a national and international level.

At a national level, some countries manage their disabled sports through their National Paralympic Committees or national disabled sports federations, while, on the other hand, para-sports are managed by national mainstream sports federations.

At an international level, there is no common agreement of which body should be in charge of disabled sports. In some cases, the sport is organized by the International Paralympic Committee, while other sports are managed by the international federation in charge of the mainstream sport or the specific international disabled sports federation.

In my opinion, all these organisations are key to the future of disabled sports – it is just important that we find a common path where all these organisations are included and can contribute for the future growth of disabled sports at both a grassroots and elite level.

In terms of the employment of disabled people in sports organisations, disabled people are still unable to find equal access to work in the sports world. The biggest challenge here is the lack of accessibility – it is still quite common for a disabled person to not be recruited, since many workplaces and office buildings remain inaccessible. Further, many a times, recruitment processes are not inclusive – for example, it is still uncommon to find recruitment ads that are translated in accessible formats for disabled persons to apply.

We should work to increase the number of people with disabilities to work in sports organisations, and we should ensure that they are in positions that fit with their knowledge and expertise, i.e. just because they have a disability, it does not mean their role is limited to a foundation or a CSR department.

Disability should be seen by sports organizations not only as linked to inclusion policies, but as a huge opportunity that we cannot lose. This is an opportunity to reach a group that represents 15% of the world’s population and if your organization wants to be global, you cannot ignore people with disabilities.

José Soares is the Chief Association Executive at Integrated Dreams. He also is an organiser of the Football for All Leadership Programme.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - 15:28

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