Dreams came true for a group of disabled youngsters when they performed at the UEFA Super Cup match opening ceremony in Istanbul – and got to meet the stars from Liverpool and Chelsea as well.
Wednesday night’s UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea in Istanbul brought joy to the lives of a group of football-loving disabled youngsters – thanks to the two clubs, their stars and the UEFA Foundation for Children.
The opening ceremony at Besiktas Park saw a mixed choir of amputee youngsters from the Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Disabled and the singers of the Turkish radio and television corporation’s polyphonic children’s choir perform Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds.
In the run-up to the game, the disabled youngsters were given the thrill of a lifetime when they met the Liverpool and Chelsea players at the stadium, played football with the stars and chatted with them.
Chelsea’s French striker Olivier Giroud made friends with Agit Siyar, a dedicated amputee footballer, who told him about his great love of the game.
“Football has always been at the forefront of things for me,” said Agit, an amputee footballer since the age of 11. “My dream is to become a very big footballer, to achieve success for my country, to play in tournaments and to be a long-standing player in the national team.”
“To be disabled or to be an amputee is not an obstacle,” added Agit, who has been disabled from birth. “It doesn’t stop you from doing anything. If you set your heart on something and if you love it, you should always run after it. And you should never give up.”
“Enjoy playing football with your friends, keep going, and, as you say, never give up,” Giroud told Agit. “The three words I never forget [in trying] to always improve are: work, respect, and humility – and with these three things, you can do anything.”
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk spent time with another young amputee footballer, Emirhan Kargaci, who was disabled in a road accident at the age of 11.
Emirhan told the Dutch star how he refused to let his disability get him down. “Life is very beautiful for me,” Emirhan said. “Even though I had the accident, I get on with my life.”
“My dream is to play for the Turkish national team – wearing the number 7 shirt – and to bring many trophies back to Turkey,” he added.
“Believe… enjoy,” was Van Dijk’s advice to Emirhan. “Chase your dreams, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible.”
The UEFA Foundation for Children thanked the two clubs for the moments of happiness shared with the young fans, saying that their support “highlights that football leaves no one aside, a strong message of integration, solidarity and hope.”
UEFA President and foundation chairman Aleksander Ceferin also promoted the key message of belief and hope during the trophy and medal presentation ceremony after the match.
He was accompanied at the ceremony by Ali Turganbekov, a young boy from Kazakhstan with no legs, who has a strong passion for football and dreams of becoming a Paralympic champion.
“The children from the choir and Ali Turganbekov demonstrate that strong beliefs in their dreams can help them overcome many obstacles,” said Mr Ceferin.
“We pay respect to all disabled children in football or other sports who give their best and lead an active lifestyle. We hope they will motivate many others to follow their example. Moments like this can make all the difference.”