High-profile athletes, coaches and footballers brought together for the occasion of the National Sport Day to launch the “A Ball for All” project.
Prominent footballers, coaches, international experts and representatives from sport organisations and clubs came together today for the launch of ‘A Ball for All’ – a project to promote access to the practice of football for blind and visually impaired people.
The launch event, which was organised by Save the Dream, took place at Aspire Zone for the occasion of the National Sport Day. Run in collaboration with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), Sasol, under its Definitely Able initiative, Qatar Social & Cultural Centre for the Blind (QSCCB) and Aspire Zone, the event featured the French Ambassador to Qatar H E Eric Chevallier, Qatar Sports Club and former Inter Milan player Luis Jimenez and legendary international coach Bora Milutinović.
Involving more than 150 children from Alnoor Institute for Blind, Al-Yarmouk Preparatory School, Khalifa Secondary School, Alkoan International School, Olive Indian School and Almaha School, the event showcased the power blind football has to empower young people and encourage inclusivity and integration within society.
A range of celebrities and influencers, such as Ahmed, Khaleel beIN TV presenter and former national football team player; Mohammed Daham and Saud Fateh Aljamaan, former national football team players; Qatar’s first international female golfer Yasmian Al Sharshani; and social media influencers Ahmed Pato, Saad Al Qahtani, joined the event and participated in penalty shootouts alongside children and members of the public.
Organised as part of Save the Dream’s overall mission to use sport as tool for social inclusion and youth empowerment, the event marked the start of a capacity-building project, which will provide advanced training for coaches in Qatar to encourage young people to practice blind football. A toolkit will be distributed to all blind and visually impaired children in the country and their respective families and innovative balls (with a bell inside) – smaller and lighter than those currently used in blind football – will be introduced to facilitate the practice of this sport.
The project was designed, on behalf of Save the Dream, by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football Referees Coordinator Elias Mastoras.
Sasol, the international integrated chemicals and energy company, sponsored ‘A Ball for All’ through its leading initiative, ‘Definitely Able’, to support the blind community in Qatar. Since the launch of Definitely Able in 2012, Sasol has made continuous achievements in raising awareness and addressing issues of inclusion and empowerment for Qatar’s disabled community.
Speaking at the event, Mohammed Hanzab, Founder of Save the Dream and ICSS Chairman, said:
“We believe that sport is a unique and powerful instrument to promote social inclusion and empower youth. It has a high positive impact on children and youth especially those with special needs as it shows inclusivity and encourages them to realise their potential.
“On behalf of Save the Dream, I would like to extend my gratitude to Qatar Financial Centre, Sasol, Qatar Social and Cultural Center for the Blind and Aspire Zone for supporting Save the Dream in this special event. Special thanks also to Luis Jimenez, Bora Milutinović and the athletes who attended the event and gave many young people the opportunity to experience and play sport.”
Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, QFC Authority Chief Executive Officer, said: “At the QC, we believe in inclusion and equal opportunity for all members of society. It is my honour to be part of this one of a kind occasion that marks Qatar’s first full-fledged blind football game. As we celebrate Qatar National Sport Day 2018, we continue to pursue opportunities that contribute to the human development pillar, which is a vital component of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our partners Save the Dream, Sasol, Qatar Social and Cultural Centre for the Blind and Aspire Zone who helped make this event possible but above all, I would like to thank these young gentlemen who participated in the game for being an inspiration to us all.”
Phinda Vilakazi, President of GTL Ventures at Sasol added: “Sasol is proud to support the Blind Football ‘A Ball for All’ project in Qatar. We are delighted with this event considering the positive impact that sports can have on the disabled community. Since the initiation of our Definitely Able initiative in 2012, Sasol has been committed to empowering and supporting people with disabilities. This partnership with Save the Dream, QFC, QSCCB and Aspire Zone is an opportunity to promote inclusive sports and we are looking forward to further collaboration with the expansion of this project”
Mr. Nasser Abdullah Al-Hajri, Director of PR and Communications at AZF added: “At Aspire Zone, we believe that everyone should have access to the power of sports, and to our world-class facilities. This is in line with our mission to promote an active and healthy lifestyle among community members of all ages and physical capabilities, and to elevate sports performance in Qatar. As such, we’re proud to collaborate with Al Noor Institute for the Visually Impaired and other local institutions and host the ‘Football for All’ event on our pitches. We look forward to extending this partnership in the future.”
Save the Dream Executive Director Massimiliano Montanari concluded by saying:
“The most magical aspect of our approach to blind football is that it brings together both visually impaired and sighted young people, allowing them to play together and share the same rules of engagement.”
French Ambassador to Qatar hails Save the Dream’s “Humanitarian” ‘A Ball for All’ initiative
Ambassador of the French Republic to Qatar, HE Eric Chevallier, expressed his pleasure at taking part in the ‘A Ball for All’ initiative launched by Save the Dream today as part of Qatar Sports Day celebrations, reiterating his commitment to participate in the activities held to mark this national occasion.
He said Qatar Sports Day is a pioneering initiative, which embodies the keenness of the wise leadership to promote the concept of sport for all.
He described today’s event as a noble and important humanitarian initiative aimed at promoting interaction among people with special needs and their peers and representing an important opportunity to inspire pride and belonging.
In a symbolic gesture that reflects the human values of the sport movement, the French Ambassador told the players: “I have tried blind soccer for the first time in my life and I can say it is a very difficult game.”
He called on participants to show determination and optimism to practice their favourite game and achieve their dreams.
Daham: “Hanzab’s initiatives deserve praise and appreciation”
Mr. Mohammed Daham, former star of Al-Arabi Sports Club and former Qatar national team player, praised the ‘A Ball for All’ initiative, describing it as humanitarian.
He paid tribute to the efforts being exerted by the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) through its Save the Dream programme, led by ICSS Chairman Mr. Mohammed Hanzab, who has initiated various pioneering initiatives in Qatar and the around the world.
He also thanked the ICSS for its key role in promoting awareness about sport for people with special needs more generally and promoting football for the blind in particular through the implementation of a significant number of international programmes and initiatives that champion the right of people with special needs to exercise and better integrate within their communities.
Jimenez: “‘A Ball for All’ brings football fans together in Doha”
Chile international footballer Luis Jimenez, Qatar Sports Club and former Inter Milan player, expressed his pleasure at participating in the Save the Dream initiative, noting it was an exceptional experience for him to play blind soccer.
“Today’s game gave me an opportunity to discover the determination of the blind and partially sighted, who can serve as role models for us, and I congratulate the organisers, Save the Dream, for this noble humanitarian initiative,” said Jimenez.
“This occasion has given blind and visually impaired football players and fans a chance to meet and play alongside their favourite football stars.”
The international football player expressed hope that this initiative will turn into a model, which can be implemented by all countries in the world to promote the right of the blind to play their favourite game.
Al-Afwi: “A humanitarian Initiative with excellence”
“Today’s game was a truly humanitarian initiative that allowed our blind brothers in Qatar to enjoy football as part of the Save the Dream’s ongoing efforts to use the power of sport to further integrate blind and partially sighted people within the community,” said Rabii Al-Afwi, a former Moroccan national team player and sports analyst for Al Kass TV.
Al-Afawi praised the ICSS’ efforts of to develop blind soccer in Qatar and the world, which reflects the vision of the Centre’s leadership to promote this sport discipline, paving the way for the formation of a strong national football team.
He expressed hope that this initiative will reach a global level and contribute effectively to promoting blind soccer in Qatar and the region.