Special Champions League

Project details

Social Inclusion
Upcoming Activities
22 Apr
This year we are celebrating our 21st EFDN “#MoreThanFootball” Conference, the ultimate ESG event for European Football Organisations. The conference will be held on the 22nd till 24th of April 2024 in Warsaw at the Legia Warsaw Stadium, the home base of EFDN Member Legia Warszawa. The conference will include high-level experts Read more
28 May
EFDN is pleased to invite you to participate in its first EFDN Special Champions League tournament of the year. This time, the event will take place in Breda from the 28th until the 30th of May. This international event will welcome female and male players who are +15 years old and have Read more
18 Jul
The 7th Edition of the EAFF Junior Camp will take place in Belgium. Picturesque Blankenberge will be buzzing with the energy of young amputee football enthusiasts. This year, we are thrilled to announce that it’s co-organized by the Clube Brugge Foundation! As a part of the Nobody Offside Project. Let’s make the 7th Read more

Special Champions League

The EFDN Special Champions League is a new project of EFDN that will provide a safe,
inclusive, and active environment where young people over 15 years old with an intellectual
disability can come together and play football at a level they are all comfortable with.
EFDN will organise 2 to 4 European Football Festivals per year that are hosted by different
EFDN members throughout the year. The tournaments are non-competitive and a way to
promote greater social inclusion and acceptance of disability football within European
Football clubs and the wider European population.

Through football, EFDN want to get more young people with intellectual disabilities physically and socially active in their communities and increase integration and inclusion within society. The EFDN Special Champions League has been shaped in line with the Special Olympics philosophy, and it will provide opportunities for participants to improve their physical health, increase their confidence, meet new people, learn about others, and establish social bonds. The Special Champions League is co-funded by Erasmus+.

The objectives of the project are to :

• Provide safe, inclusive, and active environments where young people with
intellectual disabilities can come together and play football at a level they are all
comfortable with.
• Provide opportunities for young people with intellectual disabilities to socialise
with young people who do not have intellectual disabilities.
• Foster and enhance cross-sectional partnerships for the establishment of a
Special Champions League methodology across the football industry.

The project consortium includes Special Olympics Belgium, the European Football for Development Network (the Netherlands), Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Foundation (Ireland), and eight professional football club foundations:

  1. SL Benfica Foundation (Portugal)
  2. NAC Breda (Netherlands)
  3. NEC Nijmegen (Netherlands)
  4. Werder Bremen (Germany)
  5. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Germany)
  6. SC Huesca (Spain)
  7. Levante Foundation (Spain)
  8. KAS Eupen (Belgium)

The eight professional football club foundations are the organisations responsible for delivering directly to the participants and to set up the partnerships with grassroots clubs and organisations on a local level. Special Olympics Belgium is the main responsible for management and coordination, while EFDN and Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Foundation are responsible for expertise, resource creation, European partnerships and dissemination.

1st Edition of EFDN Special Champions League

On November 6th 2021, the 1st EFDN Special Champions League consisted of ten teams, bringing more than 100 kids, coaches, and fans from all over Europe, came to Breda to meet each other. At this first ever event participated the young stars of SL Benfica from Portugal, Everton FC from England, Bohemian FC Dublin (Ireland), Bayer 04 Leverkusen and SV Werder Bremen (Germany), Inter Campus Kraków (Poland) and three Dutch clubs: FC Emmen, Excelsior Rotterdam and two teams of N.E.C. Nijmegen. The young players showed the best of themselves, shining in a Champions League setting and scoring as great goals as the professional players in the ‘real’ tournament. Apart from that they also had great fun on the Human Football Table. And at the end of the day we only had winners!

2nd Edition of EFDN Special Champions League

On February 8th 2023, the second edition of the Special Champions League took place. After the pilot edition in Breda in November 2021, the tournament now took place in beautiful Lisbon. With a pitch that was right next to the Estádio da Luz, Benfica’s stadium. The beautiful venue coupled with the collaboration of EFDN, Fundação Benfica, Special Olympics and Masterfoot were the perfect elements to make the tournament successful.

Twelve different teams filled with boys and girls participated in the tournament, also the vast majority were still children. Present at the tournament were: AFC Ajax | Only Friends, Werder Bremen, Benfica Foundation, KAS Eupen, Fundación Alcoraz Huesca, Fundación Levante UD, NEC Nijmegen, Foundation 92, Juventus for Special, Bayer Leverkusen, Everton in the Community and the Special Olympics Portugal team.

3rd edition of EFDN Special Champions League

On June 7th in Leverkusen, Germany, the tournament brought together 12 teams, 170 footballers and staff members from across Europe (Germany, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and England). The success of the tournament was a collective effort involving organisers (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), volunteers, coaches, and supporters. Their commitment created a great tournament as well as a positive environment for personal growth and self-confidence.

On the eve of the tournament, we gathered the teams for a delightful dinner at the Lindner Hotel, located within the BayArena. To add to the excitement, we organized a lively variation of Bingo, infused with the spirit of football, as well as an “Oreo challenge” among the coaches of each team.

Present at the tournament were: Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen, Benfica Foundation, KAS Eupen, Fundación Alcoraz Huesca, Fundación Levante UD, NEC Nijmegen, Foundation 92, Juventus for Special, Everton in the Community and the Special Olympics Germany team.

More about Special Olympics

The Special Olympic supports over 5 million athletes, 1 million coaches and volunteers,
more than 100,000 competitions each year, and 32 Olympic-type sports through programs
in more than 170 countries. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual
disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

The Special Champions League project is currently running in 5 different countries thanks to the hard work of our project partners: Bayer 04, Benfica Foundation, Fundación Alcoraz, Fundación Levante, KAS Eupen, NAC Breda, NEC Nijmegen, and Werder Bremen.