A Unified Bond: Special Olympics Global Unified Cup Qualifier

July 01, 2013

It was a thrilling five days in Bangkok, as Special Olympics Unified Teams from Bangladesh, Bharat (India), Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Thailand pit their football abilities against each other in the Asia Pacific region qualifier for the Special Olympics Global Unified Cup.

Asia Pacific Qualifier Fast Facts

Date:  15 – 21 June 2013
Venue: Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus, Pathumthani, Bangkok, Thailand

239 participants comprising of:
62 Athletes, 49 Unified Partners, 33 Coaches and Delegates
48 Volunteer GOC officials
15 Licensed Football Referees
32 Student Volunteers (Delegation Assistant Liaisons,  Ballboys, etc).

Final Result:
First:  Special Olympics Thailand
Second: Special Olympics Bangladesh
Third: Special Olympics Malaysia

Fair Play Award: Special Olympics Pakistan 

Playing Unified

Thailand and Bangladesh emerged in first and second place, automatically qualifying for the 2014 finals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Third place winner Malaysia will play another match with the second place winner of the East Asia region qualifier later this year, to qualify for a spot in Rio.

Using Football to foster social inclusion through Special Olympics Unified Sports®, to “Play Unified” means people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team. These peers of similar ability and age are called Unified Partners, they train and compete alongside Special Olympics athletes.  The Unified Sports® concept was borne from a principle that having a common language of sport fosters understanding and friendship between these two groups.


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Anurak Warit (in red) scores the only penalty goal for Thailand.

“How we are equals”

For Thai athlete Anurak Warit, who scored the only penalty kick in the final match against Bangladesh, playing unified is the spirit of coming together and creating success: “I feel that my teammates, both athletes and unified partners, are like my brothers. Training for the tournament was very hard, but I know that success always comes from practice. We are not born with equal abilities, but everyone can try to do his best, and this is how we can become equal.”


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Malaysia Unified Partner Yugendran (right) with Singapore Coach Yuchi.

The Player Experience

Malaysian athlete Mohamad Hamzah bin Ahmad found the qualifier a memorable experience: "This was my first time on an aeroplane, playing in a regional level competition and meeting other players in Bangkok. I'm very proud to help the team achieve third placing in the game and hope Special Olympics Malaysia can qualify for Rio in 2014."

Adds 19 year old Malaysian Unified Partner Yugendran Karunagaran, playing in his second Unified tournament: “Compared to my first competition in Singapore last year, the level this time was high because each team brought the best players from their countries. We worked together, and gave a good fight to win our third placing. I really respect my athlete teammates – they are well committed, and give 100% on the pitch. They play better then the partners!”


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Special Olympics Bangladesh.

Rewarding a Team Effort

Special Olympics Bangladesh’s National Director Faruqul Islam is happy with their second placing, acknowledging the team effort: “Since 2012, we have regular Unified Football competitions in Bangladesh. From mid May, we started training with four coaches. We narrowed down an initial group of 20 athletes and 10 partners to nine athletes and seven partners, and put the team through a final two week training before Bangkok. To have Team Bangladesh playing in Rio is the reward of their sincere and hard practice. Credit goes to all athletes, partners and coaches.”


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Special Olympics Singapore Team.

Joy is in the Journey

For Special Olympics Singapore, the Bangkok experience was rewarding, even if the team did not qualify for the finals. Coach Huang Yuchi remembers a pivotal moment during one match against Special Olympics Indonesia, when they were defeated 3-2: “The ‘total football’ played by our team was mesmerizing, and the passing game between athletes and partners was seamless. At the end of the match, we knew the match outcome meant so much to our team, and defeat was painful to take. Yet, everyone still shook the hands of our opponents.”

Undeterred by their loss, the team is already looking ahead. Yuchi quips: “Team Singapore learnt a lot at this qualifier. With an average age of 21 years old, we are determined to make it at the next qualifier in 2017, to play in Russia!”

Click here for Special Olympics Thailand's profile in the Bangkok Post.


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