Mulan Smart Educational Centre has launched the inclusion soccer academy to harness and nurture hidden talents in children with special needs.

Speaking at the launch on Saturday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thara Brigitte Mills, said the initiative was not just like other soccer academies.

She stated it entails diversity and inclusion, which are fundamental principles that should be upheld in all aspects of society, including sports.

“In the world of sports, diversity refers to the representation of individuals from different backgrounds, abilities, and experiences. Inclusion, on the other hand, focuses on creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported.

“When these principles are applied to special needs sports, it not only provides equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities but also contributes to the overall growth and development of society as a whole,” she said.

The Soccer Academy which will drive special needs sports in soccer she added will offer multitude of benefits for individuals with disabilities.

“Firstly, it provides an avenue for physical activity, helping to improve cardiovascular health, motor skills, and overall well-being. Moreover, participating in soccer allows individuals with special needs to develop social skills, such as teamwork, communication, and cooperation.

“These skills are not only valuable on the field but also transferable to other areas of life, such as school, work, and social interactions. Also, special needs sports in soccer can positively impact mental health by boosting self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of belonging,” she noted.

Madam Mills underscored the camaraderie and support from teammates and coaches will foster an environment where individuals with disabilities can feel accepted and appreciated for their unique abilities.

Additionally, participating in soccer can provide a sense of purpose and identity for individuals with special needs, giving them a platform to showcase their talents and abilities.

“We at Mulan believe that, by providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate in a mainstream sport, it will break down barriers and challenges societal perceptions of what individuals with special needs can achieve.

“The inclusivity and acceptance within the sports community help to create a more inclusive society at large. Through special needs sports in soccer, individuals with disabilities can build meaningful relationships, form connections, and become active members of their communities,” she remarked.

To buttress her point, she shared the story of Maria, a teenager with autism who found her voice and purpose through special needs soccer.

Through her participation in the sport, Maria developed social skills, confidence, and a sense of belonging.

Her dedication and determination led her to become a spokesperson for autism awareness, using her experiences in soccer to advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities.

These success stories she stressed highlight the immense potential and capabilities of individuals with special needs when provided with equal opportunities and support.

She assured the Adjiriganor-based academy has the resources to meet the various needs of each child, encouraging and motivating children to become independent adults in the future.

“We therefore encourage parents who wish to see their children as great footballers to look no further, but take advantage of the opportunity to enroll their children,” she appealed.