Stakeholders have called for the inclusion of the physically-challenged in sports, saying it would not only give them a sense of belonging but also fulfillment.
The stakeholders stated this at the maiden edition of the Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi (ABL) Football Tournament going on in Abuja among teams from the six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Speaking with Tribune Sports at the Old Parade Ground, Area 10, Abuja, the convener of the competition, Mrs Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi, said as the centre of unity, Abuja is home to Nigerians from all walks of life irrespective of their religious, political cultural and tribal affiliations and which must be sustained through the inclusion of everyone in sports.
She stated that Nigeria is better together through sports while adding that the ABL Football Tournament is more concerned about the unity of Nigeria and the inclusion of the physically-challenged in sports.
“The Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi (ABL) Football Tournament is all about unity through sportsmanship. What you see us doing is a synergy that you must be intentional about when you are embracing inclusion. We must understand that person with disabilities are persons with capacities and can do what able-bodied people are doing. This is a match between the national Deaf Football Team of Nigeria Kicker FC of Abuja.
All they (the physically-challenged) need is that channel of connection which is what is referred to as inclusion. Inclusion is not something that is imported to Nigeria by a foreign NGO to Africa or Nigeria and certainly not Abuja. We are the capital of inclusion for Africa and we are demonstrating that with this message of football tournament in the Federal Capital Territory as unity through sportsmanship. We celebrate all the participating teams. We celebrate persons with disabilities as champions. We are one.
Coaches Timothy Simon and Umar Gimba of the National Deaf Football Team and FCT Para Soccer team respectively lauded the organisers of the tournament while calling on government, corporate organisations and rich Nigerians to support the inclusion of people with disabilities in sports.
“We are not new to football. It is in our blood. We have participated in many competitions. We should not be written off because of our disabilities, we are all human. We can do what the able-bodied are doing and even better. When you see my players, you won’t even know that they are deaf. We want to thank the organisers of this tournament and we believe that they will continue to create room for us to participate in competitions like this,” Coach Simon said.
“We are overwhelmed with what the organisers have come up with. It says a lot about the inclusion of people with disabilities in sports and other areas of endeavour. They also care for the underprivileged. We are very happy for this and will want the government and other organisations to support the physically-challenged to succeed. They will be very happy to be included in sports.
For Coach Dare Adesomo of Kickers FC, the tournament could not have come at the right time.
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