Members of the unified football team of Special Olympics Bangladesh have proved their might, giving a simple message that physical handicap cannot impede anybody’s success.
After achieving tremendous success in MENA 2018 Games, they have qualified for the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup scheduled to begin in Chicago, the USA on July 17.
As chill penury was likely to block their trip to Chicago, Bangladesh’s leading business conglomerate Bashundhara Group has stood by the players.
The Group has donated Tk 30 lakh to the football team to facilitate their journey to the world cup.
Bashundhara Group Managing Director Sayem Sobhan Anvir handed over a cheque for the money to Special Olympics Bangladesh Director and founding chairman M Ashraf Dawla.
The cheque handover ceremony was held at Bashundhara Industrial Headquarters-1 in Bashundhara residential area of the capital on Thursday.
Bangladesh Pratidin Editor Naem Nizam, Kaler Kantho Editor Imdadul Haq Milon, Daily Sun Editor Enamul Hoque Chowdhury and Bashundhara Group Chief Financial and Development Officer Tofael Hossain were present on the occasion.
Sixteen unified football teams will contest the unified world cup in Chicago from July 17 to July 22. Bangladesh team have got a rare opportunity to contest the prestigious tournament.
The physically challenged children in Special Olympics Bangladesh have been showing continuous success in cricket, football, athletics, badminton, table tennis, swimming and floor hockey in international tournaments.
They have not only won gold medals but also brought laurels for the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina greeted the players and officials at Ganabhaban in the capital for their outstanding feat.
Bangladesh unified football team have emerged as unbeaten champion in the Special Olympics Mena Games held in Abu Dhabi with the participation of 1,200 athletes from 33 countries competing in 16 disciplines.
Bangladesh defeated the home side 1-0 in the final on March 20 after beating Egypt 2-1 and Lebanon by 4-0 in the previous encounters.
They also faced the UAE in their opening match of the meet which eventually ended in 1-1 draw. During the tournament, the youngsters in red and green enjoyed some memorable time with football legend Diego Maradona, who congratulated Bangladesh athletes and officials for their success.
Bangladeshi physically-challenged players won six gold, seven silver, seven bronze medals in Special Olympics World Games at New Haven in the USA in 1995; 6 gold, 1 silver, 9 bronze in Asia Pacific Games at Shanghai in China in 1996; 21 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze in Special Olympics World Games at New Carolina in the USA in 1999; 10 gold, 6 silver and 6 bronze in Special Olympics World Games at Dublin in Ireland in 2003; 6 gold, 6 silver and 2 bronze in First Asia Pacific Boachi Games in Brunei Darussalam in 2005; one silver in First International Cricket Tournament in Mumbai in 2006; 32 gold, 15 silver and 24 bronze in Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai in 2007; 15 gold, 7 silver and one bronze in Second Asia Pacific Boachi Games at Brunei Darussalam in 2008, one silver in International Cricket Carnival in Delhi in 2009; and 35 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze medals in Special Olympics World Games at Athens in Greece in 2011.
Besides, they became champions in South Asian Football Tournament in Dhaka in 2012, Fourth Asia Pacific Boachi Games in Brunei Darussalam in 2012 and Winter World Games (floor hockey) at PyeongChang in 2013, SO Regional Unified Floor Hockey in Seoul in 2015, Fifth SO Asia Pacific Boachi Games in Brunei Darussalam in 2015, SO Second South Asian Unified Cricket in Dhaka in 2016, SO Third South Asia Unified Cricket at Andhra Pradesh in 2017 and Special Olympics MENA Games 2018 at Abu Dhabi. Physically challenged children also became runners up at Football Cup Qualifying at Bangkok in 2013, and SO First South Asian Unified Cricket in Dhaka in 2014.
Meanwhile, the female team became champions and the male team runners-up in Winter World Games Unified Floor Hockey in Austria in 2017.
Although the unified football team has got opportunity to play Special Olympics Unified Cup in Chicago, uncertainty is gripping its participation and training for lack of money and logistic support.
Responding to an appeal by Special Olympics Bangladesh director Ashraf Dawla, Bashundhara Group has come forward with financial support for the players and organisers.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Ashraf Dawla said, “Our physically challenged children are not confined to any room. They are doing well in education and sports. They have been participating in Olympics and other international tournaments and winning gold and laurels for the parents and the country since the 90s. The determination of the physically challenged children is so high that it is invincible.”
In his speech, Special Olympics Bangladesh chairman Dr. Shamim Matin Chowdhury said, “Being a doctor and psychiatric, I feel need to work for the physically challenged children. They are no longer burden on their parents. They are winning gold medals and receiving cheques from the prime minister. We need to nurture them, take care of them and love them.”
Speaking on the occasion, Farukul Islam, the national director for Special Olympics Bangladesh, said, “I worked for promotion of sports for 40 years. I joined Special Olympics Bangladesh nine years ago. I am happy with the performance of the physically challenged players. The feedback from disabled players is more than others.”