St. George’s Park, the LMA and the PFA will proudly host the Special Olympics GB football team this weekend. It is the second time the squad have trained at SGP, previously they were in camp last September.
The squad, currently gearing up for the World Games in Abu Dhabi in March 2019, will enjoy and use facilities at the national football centre.
Next month’s competition will be the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event.
There will be 24 sports taking place with 7000 athletes, 2500 coaches and approximately 20,000 volunteers involved.
Around 2000 reporters are expected to cover the games.
Bobby Coltman, head coach of Special Olympics Great Britain’s football squad, said: “To be returning to St George’s Park just three weeks before we leave the UK for Abu Dhabi is a fantastic opportunity for our squad to put together our final pieces of preparation for the games.
“The last time we used the facilities we were given such a warm welcome by all of the staff at St George’s Park, and now all of the athletes cannot wait to return. It is clear that these opportunities have inspired them all to raise their game ahead of the tournament. The support shown by the wider footballing community has encouraged the squad to believe in themselves and each other. We couldn’t have had a better place to prepare for it, and I am sure it will pay dividends during the tournament.
“Only time will tell if we come back to home soil with a medal, but the treatment we have received from the LMA, PFA and The FA has already left our players feeling like gold medallists. They are determined to repay the support shown by everyone, and I am confident they will be at their best in March. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to prepare to the level we will now be able to, and the athlete’s experience at SGP will give them memories to look back on and cherish for many years to come
“Not only is this a great experience for our athletes, but using such prestigious facilities also helps to raise the profile of Special Olympics Great Britain. Hopefully we can inspire others to get involved with local programs that run locally all over the country.
“Our squad consists of players from as far as the Scottish Highlands all the way down to the South East of England, so opportunities to get the full team together are sparse. When we are together as a group we really have to take as much as possible out of the time together. To be at a purpose built facility is a rare opportunity for us, and so we will be able to cover so much more content with the squad, not only on the training pitch, but to bond as a team off the pitch too.
“Our athletes have overcome a lot of challenges to get to this position, and the opportunity to spend the weekend together at SGP means that they can start the tournament in full momentum.
“Competing at the games will change their lives forever, I hope that their success will show them what they can achieve in all aspects of their lives. To train at the top facility in the country can only add to this experience, and the value it has added to our athletes’ experience is impossible to measure.”
Howard Wilkinson, Chairman of the League Managers Association, added: “Time after time we see how sport has the power to enthuse people and transform lives.
“Nowhere is this more apparent than in the events provided by Special Olympics GB for young men and women with learning disabilities.
“To see the competitors in action and witness their response is truly inspiring.
“They all deserve a medal as do the hundreds of unpaid volunteers and carers, without whose help, nothing would be possible.”
John Hudson, Director – Corporate Social Responsibility at the Professional Footballers Association said: “We echo and endorse everything Howard has said.
“The PFA have supported the Special Olympics GB football squad on a number of occasions in the past, most notably the Football teams who won Gold and Silver at the Los Angeles Games a few years ago, so we are more than happy to be involved once again in a really worthwhile endeavour.”