Don’t fret, says Special Gladiators coach

Don't fret, says Special Gladiators coach
Don't fret, says Special Gladiators coach

Africa-Press – Namibia. THERE is so much more to the Special Olympics Unified Cup than winning matches, says Namibia coach Erastus Amuthitu of the inclusivity tournament underway in Detroit, USA.

The ethos of the competition is to have everybody on the team play and have fun together. Winning the match is a bonus, Amuthitu explained ahead of the Special Gladiators’ semi-final against India today.

The week-long event showcases athletic performances on the pitch, and highlight stereotype-defying stories off the pitch—changing minds and opening hearts through transformational inclusion.

Yesterday was Detroit Cultural Day and a rest day, meaning the Unified Cup athletes got a chance to participate in putt-putt golf, yard games, music, and a dance party.

Namibia is yet to register a win after three matches. They lost 5-0 to Guatemala on their Unified Cup bow, which was followed by a 4-0 loss to Slovakia on Monday, before Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to the Caribbean team. The results may appear alarming, but they are not, Amuthitu says.

“The tournament is going well. It’s not as bad as we’re seeing it,” he said. “This tournament is not the same as the ones that we watch on TV like the Fifa World Cup where you get in groups and you are knocked out, then you go home,” he explained.

“Special Olympics is quite different. Here, it’s all about inclusion. It means now, you are bringing together the intellectually disabled (athletes) with the abled (partners), you’re tested to see where you strengths are,” the coach said.

Following the Group Stage, teams advanced to the medal round and were placed into divisions based on their performance in the Group Stage.

The top team from each group and the next highest seeded team advanced to Division 1. Division 2 consists of the following four highest seeded teams. The three teams who finish last in their group and the next lowest-seeded team will compete in Division 3.

“Obviously, we got to play against countries that have been part of this competition before. After that, we’re going to be grouped again according to our ability. So, you don’t look at it and think they are all at the same level. Unfortunately, it’s not the case,” said Amuthitu.

All teams will compete in semi-finals today. Winners in Division 1 and 2 will advance to compete in finals on Saturday, in their respective divisions. Division 1 and 2 consolation matches and Division 3 finals will take place tomorrow.

“If you look at the athletes that are playing, there is a lot you can pick out, like they are not at the level where an able bodied person is. They still have a long way to train, learn a lot of skills and dynamics of play,” Amuthitu noted.

“It’s not just a thing of today, or this tournament. It’s a work in progress. This is our fist time. It’s not as easy as we think.”

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