|David Rutherford and Reynald Temarii (Photo: Phototek)|
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Ministers of Sport from 11 Pacific Island nations who were hosted by OFC at the TelstraClear Pacific Centre in Manukau during the inaugural Pacific Youth and Sports Conference 2010.
OFC President Reynald Temarii says he sees symmetry in the values, goals and aims of OFC and Special Olympics.
"Themes of the Pacific Youth and Sports Conference included social integration and anti-discrimination so it makes sense that we use this occasion to sign an MOU with Special Olympics," said President Temarii.
SOAP Chairman David Rutherford says he is looking forward to developing a long-term relationship with OFC.
“What strikes me about OFC is they say the right things but also do the right things - when you look at a grassroots development programme like ‘Just Play’, it brings that to life,” said Rutherford, former CEO of New Zealand Rugby.
"Special Olympics have a mission to grow the number of footballers - we have our Special Olympics Global Football, FIFA, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, New Zealand Football, Corinthians (Brazil), Kaka and a growing number of clubs."
In 2007, Special Olympics developed a pilot project with FIFA aimed at using the sport of football and the capacity of both organisations to build awareness and understanding for people with intellectual disabilities.
Through expanding opportunities for football participation, individual empowerment, family education and basic health screening through the global Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Programme, the strength of this partnership and pilot programme significantly impacted life both on and off the football field.
"It is recognised that the pilot programme between FIFA and Special Olympics has been very successful and that the way forward for athlete growth and opportunity will be based upon the strength of partnership development where mutual synergies exist," said President Temarii.
In mid 2009, OFC and SOAP began discussions to develop a partnership to reinforce sustainable youth development in the Pacific region through sports. The catalyst for the early engagement centered around an OFC initiative to stage the first ever Pacific Youth and Sports Conference. Coupled with this was the availability of financial support through the Australian Government and the direct investment that OFC had made into sports facilities, equipment and youth development in many of the Pacific rim communities.
The strength of Special Olympics global sports resources also added strength to the proposed partnership. Special Olympics have developed community level sports resources in over 30 sports and have supported an additional two million more Special Olympics athletes in just four years. That is a tripling of the number of Special Olympics athletes in the world. This agreement allows the sharing of these resources more widely for the benefit of community sport.
Special Olympics New Zealand was approached to lead the dialogue with OFC and to develop partnership opportunities for the Special Olympics Asia Pacific region. It became clear that the existing Football for Hope programme that was already established between FIFA and Special Olympics International could provide a framework for the OFC/Special Olympics Asia Pacific programme development.