CELTIC Football Club is delighted to announce that the Club is to become Scotland’s first Team Ambassador for the global Special Olympics Movement.
Celtic will dedicate its forthcoming home match against Aberdeen on March 16 at Celtic Park to celebrate the announcement and introduce a number of athletes to the Celtic supporters.
As Team Ambassadors, Celtic will use the power of football to promote respect, acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
Celtic Manager Neil Lennon said: “The Club is delighted to cement this new relationship with Special Olympics, to become the first Team Ambassador in Scotland.
"It is a great privilege for the Club to be able to use our worldwide appeal to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to play football. Special Olympics is an extraordinary organisation and we are proud to support Special Olympics’ athletes to reveal their true potential.”
As Team Ambassador, Celtic will involve its supporters, coaches and partners to promote inclusion and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities.
As an official grassroots soccer provider Celtic players and coaches will host top-level training clinics for Special Olympics athletes in Scotland and beyond.
Celtic has a proud history in hosting Opening Ceremonies of both the 2005 Special Olympics National Games and the 1990 Special Olympics European Games. On both occasions the ground was packed to capacity and Glaswegians have fond memories of one the best events ever staged in the city.
Celtic legend Packie Bonner, a long-standing friend of Special Olympics, said: “For me, today is a very special occasion and I was there in 1990. Celtic and Special Olympics are both very close to my heart so to see Celtic take on a bigger role globally with Special Olympics is fantastic.
"There are millions of people with intellectual disabilities around the world and they are often a forgotten group. We all saw how attitudes changed towards athletes with disabilities last summer in London. This partnership will create opportunities for Special Olympics athletes and transform the way communities and groups think and act with regard to intellectual disabilities.”
Founded in 1993, Special Olympics Scotland West is one of the largest groups in the country supporting many of the clubs within Glasgow and the region. At the 2011 World Games in Athens, Scotland made up 48 per cent of team Great Britain and this year more than 700 Scots will compete at the National Games in Bath in August. The fundraising and training has already begun.
Trevor O’Rourke, Special Olympics Global Football Director said: "Special Olympics Global Football initiative aims to create a network of Ambassador Teams which brings the football community together to promote inclusion and raise public awareness of the Special Olympics year-round programme.
"We are proud and honoured that Celtic FC is supporting our athletes and the Movement in such a significant way which will benefit thousands of children and adults with an intellectual disability."
Team Ambassadors for Special Olympics include Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Corinthians in Brazil and Seattle Sounders FC from Major League Soccer in the United States.