Inspirational football festival in Tripoli

On the 19th April, the Danish organisation Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA) organised a festival for 214 children and young people in Tripoli’s Olympic Stadium. The festival benefited from the presence of Danish Ambassador to Lebanon, Jan Top Christensen, who spent time talking to the children.
This was an innovative football festival in that it gathered a wide range of children together, including most with special needs. Children came from a range of cultural backgrounds, and from a total of nine organisations. In addition, three clubs from CCPA’s network of popular clubs also attended.
The field was divided into several sections and the children took part in a wide range of fun activities in small groups. Some of these activities were especially adapted to cater for the physical needs of the participants.
Ibrahim Kalamouni, from Al Mabarat Association in Jbeil, said: "I really loved the idea of the festival. The atmosphere is great and all of the participants are having fun. There are lots of games that I haven’t seen before and it suits our physical conditions. I hope to participate in more events like this".
Roula Akiki, a coach from the Lebanese University, expressed her satisfaction at being involved in organising the festival: "Being part of this event is something special. I love working with disabled children and I feel that I am bringing joy to their hearts. The festival is a great success and I am happy to see that you are working with disabled children and you are gathering them with normal children".
The festival in Tripoli was the third of three in a national drive by CCPA to promote giving young people with special needs the same opportunities as others. Previous festivals took place in Bint Jbreil on the 20th December and in Beirut on the 25th February. In total, these festivals have involved 358 children in need of a wide range of special care, from around twenty institutions from across Lebanon, joining hands with 130 children from the CCPA national network of 107 Popular Clubs. Through these events, CCPA has striven to demonstrate the positive effects of children participating in activities together, regardless of ability.
CCPA views promoting the integration of people with special needs into organised activities as an important development in terms of addressing some of the social disadvantages faced by those with disabilities in Lebanon and to instil hope into these people’s lives. The organisation intends to build on the festivals by promoting the opportunities open to special needs children at the institutional level. CCPA’s vision in this regard is to create Popular Clubs for special needs children – which would join the organisation’s network of Popular Clubs. The first ever Popular Clubs in Lebanon for special needs children, this would constitute an historical development on the path to what CCPA hopes will be greater institutional opportunities for those with disabilities.
The theme of inclusion and bonding through fun football activities reflects the core principles of CCPA which seeks to use children’s grassroots football to foster positive relations between people of different cultural and social backgrounds. The organisation has been operating in Lebanon since 2005 and has built up a network of 107 Popular Clubs based on an inclusive ‘sport for all’ philosophy.
John Skelton, Intern with CCPA Lebanon, Beirut

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