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Special Olympics Unified Sports® Celebrity Match a Fitting Tribute to Nelson Mandela

July 15, 2013

The Special Olympics Unified Sports® Celebrity football match took place in Pretoria, South Africa as an exhibition for the Nelson Mandela Invitational.  English Premier League football club, Manchester City participated in the Invitational to help kick-off celebrations in the lead-up to the 95th birthday of former President Mandela.

Unified Celebrity Football Match South Africa

Dr. Mathews Phosa, Chairperson of Special Olympics, with the Special Olympics Unified® teams which included Special Olympics athletes, soccer legends Mr. Lucas Radebe, Mr. Mark Fish, Ms. Janine Van Wyk and Ms. Simphiwe Dludlu; and celebrities DJ Cleo, Mr. Simba Mhere, Mr. Siya Shezi, DJ Speedy, Mr. Stoane Seate and Mr. Themba Mhinga. Photo Credit: Cheryl Smith  View High Res

For Immediate Release

15 July 2013, Pretoria, South Africa -Yesterday a vision that former President Nelson Mandela shared with the world when he officially opened the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland came to fruition in the curtain-raiser for the Nelson Mandela Invitational.

At that time, Mandela the former President with the full support of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, committed to bringing Special Olympics Unified Sports® to South Africa. His vision was to have people with and without intellectual disabilities in South Africa come together on an even playing field to help to overcome prejudice and to promote acceptance through the power of Special Olympics.

After a minute of silence was observed prior to the match in tribute to Madiba, the Chairperson of Special Olympics South Africa, Dr. Mathews Phosa, praised the former President for his vision. “This match that we are playing today is as a direct result of Madiba’s commitment to inclusion, acceptance and dignity for all South Africans,” shared Phosa. “This is his legacy. We are playing for inclusion, we are playing for Mandela.”

A number of football legends and celebrities took to the field with Special Olympics athletes to demonstrate this legacy of unity and acceptance. Mr. Lucas Radebe, board member and ambassador for Special Olympics South Africa, captained one of the unified football teams and gave his thoughts after the 1-1 draw.

“This was a fantastic achievement for Special Olympics South Africa,” shared Lucas Radebe. “It was a unique opportunity to create awareness and to demonstrate the abilities of our Special Olympics athletes. It is always thrilling for me to have the opportunity to take to the field with our athletes and to share their joy at the chance to compete.“

Mr. Radebe and the Special Olympics athletes were joined by soccer legends Mr. Mark Fish, Ms. Janine Van Wyk and Ms. Simphiwe Dludlu; and celebrities DJ Cleo, Mr. Simba Mhere, Mr. Siya Shezi, DJ Speedy, Mr. Stoane Seate and Mr. Themba Mhinga.

CEO of Special Olympics South Africa, Ms. Annemarie Van Wieringen, gave credit to the organisers of the Nelson Mandela Invitational for including the Special Olympics South Africa in today’s line up.

"It was such a privilege for our athletes to be given an opportunity to open this calibre of event and we are deeply appreciative of our hosts for including Special Olympics,” said Annemarie Van Wieringen. “It speaks volumes for inclusion and is evidence that Mandela's vision of equality is slowly being realized."

This match took place as a curtain-raiser to the Nelson Mandela Invitational. Touring English giants Manchester City are in South Africa and participated in the Invitational to help kick-off celebrations in the lead-up to the 95th birthday of former President Mandela. The matches will help to highlight ‘Mandela Day’ and the ‘67 minutes for Madiba’ campaign to a worldwide audience as South Africa celebrates the legacy of the globally loved former statesman.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries worldwide, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and related programs. Special Olympics takes place daily, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and


Ancilla Smith Special Olympics
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