June 9, 2023

#EFW2023 Celebrates Women’s Football and Empowers Unified Youth: Join the Action!

Group of girls wearing a blue uniform celebrating on a football field.

Special Olympics Slovakia team celebrating after a match at the Unified Cup Detroit 2022.

Special Olympics European Football Week is returning for its 23rd edition, promising a vibrant celebration of Women’s football and the empowerment of Unified Youth.

Running from 20 – 28 May 2023, this highly anticipated annual competition by Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) will engage over 35,000 athletes and Unified partners in 350 events across 45 countries.

“We are thrilled to showcase the incredible talent and passion of women’s football during #EFW2023. It’s a powerful platform that highlights their achievements and promotes gender equality on and off the field of play. Additionally, we at Special Olympics take inclusive sport very seriously. When we bring players together of all abilities at #EFW2023, we give everyone a chance to give their best while also creating a space for friendship, solidarity, mutual discovery, teamwork. It’s the best side of sport.”

David Evangelista, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia President

European Football Week, a grassroots football initiative established by Special Olympics Europe Eurasia and supported by UEFA Respect, focuses on players with intellectual disabilities. Since its inception in 2000, it has seen the birth of more than 7,600 local, national, and international football activities, contributing immensely to changing attitudes towards players with intellectual disabilities and expanding inclusive football opportunities for all.

When EFW first began, only 2,300 women played football in Europe Eurasia. However, this number has now surged to over 32,000, with women from 54 different countries getting the chance to shine on the football field. They constitute an impressive 30% of all Special Olympics football players in the region.

In recent years, opportunities for Unified Youth have also witnessed significant growth. Unified Sports teams are comprised of an equal mix of players with and without intellectual disabilities. While only 14 countries offered Unified training and competitions two decades ago, that number has now risen to 48 countries.

When individuals with and without intellectual disabilities unite in the same team, they not only play football matches as equals but also foster mutual understanding and build lasting friendships through the love of the sport.

The enduring partnership with UEFA Respect has played a pivotal role in the evolution of European Football Week over the past 23 years. Each year, numerous clubs from prestigious European Leagues, such as the Italian Serie A and Serie B, German Bundesliga, and Polish Ekstraklasa, extend their support to European Football Week. In 2023, 45 UEFA member associations have been invited to join #EFW2023 and organize football events to promote youth unified and women’s football.

Thanks to the support of Toyota Motor Europe and UPS Europe, Special Olympics teams throughout Europe Eurasia will come together to celebrate the beautiful game and seize the opportunity of European Football Week to build excitement for the upcoming Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, which will get underway on 17 June.

Evangelista added: “The partnership between Special Olympics and UEFA Respect has been instrumental in the success of European Football Week for many years, and we extend our deep gratitude to the UEFA family. Together, we are making a lasting impact where it is needed most, engaging clubs and national associations across Europe to promote youth unified and women’s football.

“With the support of Toyota Motor Europe and UPS Europe, #EFW2023 will be a vibrant celebration of football and the human spirit. We aim to create an atmosphere of joy and anticipation, as we pave the way for the upcoming Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023.”

Remember to join the action and be a part of the empowering experience that #EFW2023 offers, embracing the spirit of inclusion and friendship through the joy of football.