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Local soccer team crowned world champs

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The Boitumelo Special School soccer team will be bringing back the gold trophy after they were crowned the world champions at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi

GOLDEN BOYS: The Boitumelo Special School soccer team will be bringing back the gold trophy after they were crowned the world champions at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

A VERY special – and proud – group of 13 young boys will be arriving at the Kimberley Airport this morning.

The Boitumelo Special School soccer team will be bringing back the gold trophy after they were crowned the world champions at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The local team participated in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, billed as the largest sports and humanitarian event of the year, which was attended by more than 7 500 athletes from over 190 nations, participating in 24 codes/events.

The Special Olympics was held from March 7 to 21.

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas yesterday congratulated the Kimberley team on their outstanding achievement, after they beat Spain in the finals.

“We recognise the value of school sport and physical education to provide the foundations necessary for the holistic development of the pupil in support of the academic curriculum,” Lucas said in her congratulatory message.

“School sport is the bedrock of sports in the country. The department has taken a conscious decision to encourage pupils to participate in a variety of sport activities. Participation in sport has many important benefits. Sport can unite our people, build families and communities.”

Lucas pointed out that “this remarkable achievement showcases that our pupils can perform at any level of competition with the rest of our country and the world, whether in public schools or special schools. They have shown that the Northern Cape has undiscovered talent which must be supported, so that pupils can reach their full potential”.

“We are extremely proud of the team and grateful for the management and guidance provided by the team managers, coaches and support systems. The team has risen above all odds, faced many challenges and came out on top.”

The group are expected to arrive at the Kimberley Airport this afternoon at 5.40pm.

The Northern Cape’s unified football team is made up of pupils from Boitumelo School, Technical High School and Boys’ High School.

They won the right to represent South Africa at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi after shining in the Special Olympics Summer Games held at the Wits University campus in April last year.

The pupils were accompanied to Abu Dhabi by Northern Cape Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Bongiwe Mbingo-Gigaba.

The Boitumelo Special School, which caters for pupils with cognitive disabilities and autism, was founded in 1991 with only five pupils by social worker Gwendolene Mashope and currently boasts a pupil population of 207.

For many of the pupils, the trip to Abu Dhabi was the first time they had been on an aircraft, while for all of them it was the first time they had travelled overseas.

A total of 14 teams participated in the men’s 11-a-side football competition and were placed into four pools.

Professional footballers Mohamed Khalfan and Tongo Doumbia of Al Ain FC and Subait Khater of Fujairah FC attended the draw to demonstrate their support for the Games.

Host nation, the UAE, was drawn in Group A and competed against South Africa, Spain and Jamaica. Group B saw Bangladesh, Serbia and Korea play each other, while Group C pitted Bharat, Denmark, Kenya and the USA against each other. Making up Group D was Oman, Austria and Rwanda.

The Kimberley team began their road to glory when the group stage began on March 12 with the final taking place on March 20. All matches were held at Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi.

Since making its debut at the World Games in 1986, football is one of the largest sports on the programme, featuring traditional and unified teams across the 11-a-side, 7-a-side and futsal competitions.