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June 22, 2012

Display of skill and fair play at Special Olympics Showcase match before UEFA Quarter-final

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Showcase Match

National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland: After months of training and preparations finally the day arrived. Special Olympics footballers from two Polish teams, (Łęczyca and Leszno), ran onto the pitch of Warsaw’s National Stadium to play a 7-a-side exhibition match on invitation of UEFA just before the Quarter-final between Portugal and Czech Republic. There was no shortage of emotions or skill. “It's a pleasure to referee this match. A great exhibition of fair play," said international referee and former President of the Polish Football Association, Michal Listkiewicz.

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Cezary Pazura, film star and UEFA Respect Ambassador, in action during the match


Ramping up the excitement and energy were
Polish radio presenters and match commentators Michal Figurski and Michal Olszański. They both addressed the crowd and spoke about Special Olympics and the game they were about to see. “Today’s exhibition match is about showing respect for footballers with disabilities. These Special Olympics footballers have trained hard for this match,“ said Figurski. Two very special guests, and Ambassadors for UEFA Euro 2012 Respect Inclusion, played on each side: former Polish striker Roman Kosecki plays for Leszno and Polish film star and amateur footballer Cezary Pazura plays for Łęczyca.

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Roman Kosecki, former Polish National team captain and UEFA Respect Ambassador, celebrates scoring the first goal of the match with Leszno team-mates

Fans Support

Both teams were led onto the pitch by referee Michal Listkiewicz as each player's name was introduced to the crowd: “For team Leszno we have Szkudlarczyk, Marcinkowski, Nowakowski, Nowakowski, Winkhof, Wolsztyniak and Kosecki. On the substitute bench will sit Lipowicz, Sauer, Pawelczak, and Kapala. Coaches for Leszno are Karol Swiatek and Tomasz Mikolajczyk. For Leczyca we have Cabaj, Kazmierczak, Kazmierczak, Szalowski, Smuga, Olejniczak, Pazura. The reserve players are: Przepiora, Wisniewski, Manowski and Kołodziejczak. The team is led by Maciej Piszczalowski and Hanna Matusiak”. Thunderous applause welcomed tthe players and Kosecki and Pazura.


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Pazura signs t-shirts at the press conference

Press Conference

Earlier in the day both Ambassador Kosecki and Pazura along with Special Olympics players and match officials attended a packed press conference to announce details of the game. Major names froms Football in Poland and further field attended as well as partners and representatives of the Respect Inclusion campaign, including CROSS, FARE, CAFE and FSE. The Polish Minister of Sport and Tourism, Ms Joanna Mucha also attended and wished both sides the best of luck.

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Łęczyca players celebrate scoring a magnificent equaliser!

Action on the Pitch

Back to the National stadium and referee blew the whistle to kick off the first half. Leszno dominate Leczyca, but captain Marcinkowski does not use all the opportunities at hand. Kosecki tries an offensive game, but Pazura is more effective.

“I hope we’ll win but the real victory today will be our purpose and message: Respect for people with intellectual disabilities,” – said Cezary Pazura during the half-time break for Figurski’s questions.
Leszno captain, Marcinkowski, who could have given his team the lead, was visibly upset. “I had two chances, but I missed. Hard luck. In the second half, this won’t happen again and we will win,” the tired player from Leszno gasps into the mircophone.




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He does not throw words to the wind and at the beginning of the second half he passes the ball well to Roman Kosecki, who with a short corner shot beats Cabaj. The real masterstroke was the next perpendicular pass by Marcinkowski. The ball flies a few dozen meters, finds a place among defenders from Leczyca who were helplessly trying to intervene, and reaches an unwatched Kosecki. All he has to do was score and will the help of Cabaj score he does. He receives thunderous applause.
Game is not over till final whistle and this time it was not different. The confusion in the penalty area of Leszno is so great that a few defenders do not keep an eye on Damian Kazmierczak, who defeats Szkudlarczyk to score the equalizer for Łęczyca.

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The 2x7 minute match finishes in a 1:1 draw and the fans gave the players a standing ovation throughout the stadium.  After hitting the showers, the players took their seats to enjoy the quarter-final between Portugal and the Czech Republic. A goal by Cristiano Ronaldo ensures Portugal's place in the semi-final.


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