Belize Welcomes Home Special Olympics Medalists Print E-mail
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Written by Shane B. Williams   
Thursday, 14 July 2011 00:00

Special Olympics Delegation.The Belize Special Olympics 5-a-side football team,made up of eight players and three coaches, returned to Belize on Tuesday with international bronze medals around their necks. The team is the perfect example for how a national selection should be put together.

Andrew Aspinall is the Head Coach of the team. He said that the success stems from two and a half years ago when he and a fellow coach were sent to Barbados on a FIFA coaches course. Upon their return, they started coaching for Special Olympics. Since then they have trained over 40 coaches from across the country. Some of those coaches were commissioned to recruit athletes in the different districts and inter-district competitions were held. There were also regional competitions and national training camps. From the pool of talented players, eight were selected to represent the country at the Special Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Their success is remarkable especially because it is the first time that Belize competed in the competition and the school aged boys were playing against much more seasoned individual. The boys were fearless and represented the country with great pride. Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow, welcomed the team upon their arrival. She told them, “You make me proud to be a Belizean.” She read a poem to them commending their courage, determination, confidence and winning attitude. The team drew huge support and admiration while in Athens. They found themselves trailing often but never gave up - the comeback boys - was led by top goal scorer Darrel Lambey. While they did not bring home the gold medal, they championed the ideals of Special Olympics: “Let me win. But if I cannot win Let me be brave In the attempt.”

The next page for the football team is uncertain. They are invited to participate in a couple tournaments abroad. While they have earned the right to stay together and continue representing the country, Special Olympics is not an organization of elitist performance and its obligation to inclusion suggest that other people will be featured in the program. Hopefully, the team will stay together and continue on an experience of a lifetime. Coach Aspinall said that he hopes to extend the national program to four teams. The other three categories are females, adults and more advanced disabilities.

The entire Special Olympics program hopes to extend as well. Alan Auil, Chairman of Special Olympics Belize, said that football was chosen because it is the most popular sport in Belize and the world. He said that focusing on football would have definitely drawn most support. The success of the football team has done a great deal for raising support. Auil hopes that the spotlight attracts more volunteers as the organization continues to reach out to Belizeans with intellectual disabilities. Auil hopes to extend the program to include more disciplines and a wider range of participants. He said Belize focuses Special Olympics on school aged individuals but we are going to recruit more adults in the program.

At the welcome home ceremony, Special Olympics thanked several sponsors that made the trip possible and presented them with appreciation certificates. The Princess Hotel and Casino was the main sponsor.  Auil also wished to encourage more Belizeans to volunteer and be friends of Special Olympics.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 July 2011 12:36