24.04.2017 | Twenty-two line-up kids at the Letzigrund stadium

Hand in Hand

Taking one step at a time, kids and teens from the Axpo PluSport football team will escort their idols on the field at the Letzigrund stadium on 29 April 2017. This long-standing partnership on the part of Axpo with PluSport, the Swiss organisation for disabled sports, and the Grasshopper Club Zurich makes this event possible and it’s a win-win situation for all.

In an interview, Anita Fischer, the PluSport Project Manager for the event, explains how an event for people with disabilities is organised, what needs to be taken into account, and the importance of integrating kids and teens through sports.

What's involved in preparing this kind of event?
We put together kids from four Axpo PluSport football teams so we have to carefully coordinate with the coaches and counsellors of the individual teams at an early stage. The coaches are responsible for informing the parents and getting permission to participate. This match will be televised so we also need a declaration of consent from the parents. A visit to the stadium to look at and discuss the location and the routes was extremely helpful to define the procedures and establish a timetable that would be suitable for the kids.

What are the differences in making preparations for kids with disabilities versus those without? What obstacles need to be overcome?
Our kids and teens need constant support from people that they know and trust. Their coaches and parents prepare them for the event and the walk onto the field. Of course, they are familiar with football and player escorts, so they know what to expect. The final, exact details will be discussed with the kids on Sunday at the stadium. We have to move a bit less quickly. Because of the various disabilities, changing and walking onto the field will take more time. This has to be taken into account when establishing the procedure and timetable.

Which measures can be decided on ahead of time, and which ones have to be determined on site?
Although many of the children have already been in stadiums for football matches, they have to be well prepared for the crowds and the noise level. In addition, we deliberately plan in more time for preparations on site. The walk-in itself will also take more time, and the professional players will have to adapt their pace to our kids. The coaches and counsellors are at their sides at all times to ensure that the kids feel comfortable and can keep their emotions in check.  

How were the kids selected? 
There is usually a height limitation for escort kids, but fortunately this was raised to 1.6 metres for our kids. Taking this into account, the kids and teens were selected by the trainers. They know them best and who will enjoy and can handle this type of event.

What does the event mean for PluSport, the umbrella organisation for Swiss disabled sports? 
PluSport places a strong focus on football to promote young talent and has set a goal to support and develop activities in this area. The event enables our project partner Axpo to give young football players with disabilities a wonderful, unique experience in keeping with the objective of our organisation – integration through sports. We are very thankful for this. The fact that this match will be televised on Swiss TV is a stroke of luck because it will give PluSport some media presence – even if it’s only for a few minutes.

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