The 18th edition of the “Special Power League” project – a sports league for people with developmental disabilities – took place in Rovinj (April 10-11, 2023).

Another wonderful edition of the project took place on the soccer fields in Rovinj, where our athletes had a great time for 2 days at various sports and additional activities. This edition is of special importance because a record number of teams from Croatia and abroad took part in the sports meeting, including a special guest, the FC Barcelona team.

The participants were members of the following associations and institutions: Sports Association Veliko srce from Koprivnica, Association Latice, Association for Autism Pogled Nedelišće, School of Education Pula, Bili tići – sports association for people with Down syndrome from Split, Association Sindrom Down 21 Rijeka, Association Sindrom Down 21 Zagreb, Education Center Krapinske Toplice, Education Center “Ivan Štark” Osijek and partner organizations from Spain, Germany and N. Macedonia.

The inclusive program began with a friendly match between the hosts NK Istra 1961 and FC Barcelona on the football field of the Aldo Drosina stadium on Monday, April 10, 2023. The head of the administrative department for social activities and youth, Ivana Sokolov, also welcomed our partners from Barcelona, presenting gifts on behalf of City of Pula. A fantastic friendly match was played by the participants of the clubs, and after the end they socialized a bit in the club’s premises. After the match, the guests from FC Barcelona had the opportunity to visit the cultural sights of the City of Pula, including the famous Pula Amphitheater.

Tuesday brought a real football spectacle on the pitches of Valbruna in Rovinj. This year, as part of the SPL, the “European Special Power Cup” for children with developmental disabilities was held for the first time and gathered over 200 participants from 13 national and international clubs who played football and spent time having fun and socializing on football fields.

The 18th edition of the sports meeting is a milestone of the Special Power League project, and for the first time, participants and clubs are divided into 2 categories: a competitive category and a non-competitive category. The competitors excellently presented their knowledge and football skills and promoted the positive values of sports such as equality, friendship and fair play. The participants had a great time playing football and participating in other activities and showed great satisfaction with the meeting.

The clubs that participated in the SPL tournament are NK Istra 1961 SPT, NK Sloga Čakovec SPT, NK Slaven Belupo SPT, GNK Dinamo SPT, NK Stubica SPT, HNK Hajduk SPT, HNK Rijeka SPT, NK Osijek SPT, GOŠK Dubrovnik SPT, FC Barcelona, Munich 1860, Team Macedonia FK Karposhovo.

At the end of the sports meeting, a ceremonial awarding of trophies, medals and special gifts was held. The awards ceremony was organized by the head of the diversity, equality and inclusion department of FC Barcelona, Maite Laporta Estruch, who, together with the secretary of the association, Dario Jagić, awarded trophies, medals and gifts to the project participants.

At the end of the meeting, as a sign of cooperation between the Association ”Health Life Academy”  and FC Barcelona, Maita Laporta Estruch was presented by the Association with the FC Barcelona club jersey.

We as organizers are proud that together with our friends we have the opportunity to create a story based on socializing, inclusion, playing sports and having fun. We look forward to future meetings and hope that through continuous activities we will motivate even more children and young people to actively integrate into society through sports.

The project was supported by the Croatian Football Association (HNS), the Croatian Handball Association (HRS), the Mateo Kovačić Foundation and numerous partners, including the County of Istria, TZ Pula, TZ Poreč, the Sports Association of the City of Pula, the City of Pula, the City of Rovinj, HBOR, and the company Maistra, Valbruna sport, Decathlon, Ford, Bauerfeind, Konoba Veruda, Vinarija Matošević and ATI.