JICE hosts the international friendly match with the Special Olympics UAE women’s football team for the first time in Japan.
JICE implemented an international exchange program between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Japan, which includes a friendly matches between the Special Olympics UAE Women's Unified Football Team and the Japan Women's Intellectual Disability Football Team under the joint sponsorship of Japan Football Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (JFFID) and JICE with cooperation of Special Olympics Nippon (SON) from January 20 to 27.
This program was carried out as part of JICE's "Education and Human Resource Development Activities in the United Arab Emirates" which is sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, with an aim of promoting women's empowerment and social inclusion.
The UAE team arrived in Japan on January 21 from the environment where the temperature does not fall below 10°C throughout the year. The coaches decided to give priority to allowing the players to slowly adapt to the very cold weather in Japan. As a result, there was a major schedule change, but we responded flexibly by making use of our knowledge and experience, and supported their stay including arrangement of halal food.
The match was held in three days with different categories and team members. The match on the first and third days applied the category of unified football* and the one on the second day was held for players with intellectual disability. It was the first international match for 'the Japan Women's Intellectual Disability Football Team', which was newly formed by JFFID in November 2022 in response to the decision to hold this match.
The match was held in the Prince Takamado Memorial JFA Yume Field in Chiba under the bitterly cold weather. Mr. Mohamed Alfalahi, Counselor of the UAE Embassy in Japan, came to give encouragement to the UAE team.
Ms. Houriya Al Taheri, the coach of the Special Olympics UAE women's unified football team, as known as the first female Arab coach licensed by FIFA, said that, ‘It was a good experience for the players who are preparing for Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. I appreciate the Japan team and related organizations for hosting and hope to play the next match in the UAE.'
INABA Masayuki, the head coach of the Japan team, said that, `The players after the first international match were able to have a hope that they could compete against the world. This is not the goal. In the future, we will continue to work with JICE and other organizations to make efforts to hold a world football tournament for women with intellectual disability '.
Comments from players:
⚽ KUDO Ayaka (Japan) : Over the past few years, I have been telling the coach that we want to compete against overseas teams and to hold a world championship. Therefore, I'm glad that it happened so early.
⚽ ISHIBASHI Ruka (Japan) : The UAE players talked to us in Japanese, and they were more friendly than I had imagined. I want to play again in the near future.
⚽ YAMASHITA Nanami (Japan) : We were talking about aiming for a team that can both defend and attack, so we attacked aggressively. I will continue to work hard to be a player selected for the Japan national team.
⚽ Ms.Mariam(UAE) : The Japan national team was strong, but we got better as the match went on. Next time, I hope that they will come to our country.
⚽ Ms.Salma(UAE) : It was fun to play against the Japan national team. I'm glad that I talked a lot and became friends with them.
⚽ Ms.Aisha (UAE) : We struggled a lot over the three days, but we tried to do our best. I especially enjoyed experiencing about new culture in Japan.
At the closing ceremony, Mr. KITAZAWA Tsuyoshi, President of the Japan Inclusive Football Federation (JIFF) and a former Japan national team player, and SASAKI Norio who led the Japan women’s national team to their first and only FIFA Women’s World Cup win in 2011 as coach, gave words of encouragement to the players, expressed their gratitude to JICE, and wished for the development of the Special Olympics Japan women's football team.
JICE aims to further strengthen the relationship between Japan and the UAE.
*What is Unified Football? A Special Olympics initiative in which players with and without intellectual disabilities play together on the same team, against other teams with the same make up.