GFA, Special Olympics Guam embark on Unified Soccer partnership

Photo by Samantha Bautista / GFA
Photo by Samantha Bautista / GFA

GFA, Special Olympics Guam embark on Unified Soccer partnership

by Jill Espiritu
Guam Football Association

Unified Soccer officially became a Special Olympics Guam sport following the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with Guam Football Association Friday morning at the Guam Football Association National Training Center Lecture Hall.

The collaboration between the two organizations began a few years ago as simply an idea to provide additional sporting opportunities for the community.

For GFA President Tino San Gil, one encounter with a parent a few years back fully set the wheels in motion for the partnership.

“I was in the GFA office one day and a parent approached me and said, Tino, come out with me to the parking lot – and there, in the parking lot, was her son, who had a disability, outside the fence looking in watching other kids play,” said San Gil, trying to hold back tears. “She said, ‘he wants to play, what can you do for my kid to play?’ The scene and conversation has stayed with me, and when my brother Sam told me that Special Olympics Guam wanted to start a project with GFA, I didn’t hesitate.

“We owe it to our community, all of our kids, and as of today, as soon as I sign this MOA, there is no more fence at GFA,” San Gil added.

San Gil signed the MOA with Special Olympics Guam President and CEO Frank Florig in the presence of GFA Executive Director Cheri Stewart, Special Olympics Guam Chairman of the Board Camilo Lorenzo, and Special Olympics Guam Board Member and National Sports Director Paul Mendiola, in front of other GFA and Special Olympics Guam board members, athletes, and other well-wishers during the signing event’s press conference at GFA.

“This collaboration between Special Olympics Guam and Guam Football Association started some five, six years ago at a coffee shop with Tino and other GFA board members,” Florig said. “Just hearing Tino’s vision about being able to extend the organization’s services to Special Olympics Guam, it’s taken that time to make sure all of our T’s were crossed and I’s dotted. In recent years, Special Olympics has been promoting its ‘Inclusion Revolution’ a global movement celebrating all abilities, and this partnership with GFA is a perfect fit.

“I’d like to thank Guam Football Association for this opportunity for our athletes and volunteers, as well as FIFA and AFC – not only for sharing their knowledge of the sport with our athletes, but also by extending financial support for the program, as well as assisting GFA build this great facility in Guam,” Florig added.

The project will receive $5,000 in funds from AFC’s Dream Asia Football Cares program from the international organization’s Social Responsibility sector. The funds will cover operational expenses, equipment, and event shirts, among other expenses.

“This is a very exciting day and a very exciting partnership that we’re heading into with GFA,” said Camilo Lorenzo, Special Olympics Guam Chairman of the Board. “It’s something that will benefit our athletes; it’ll be an additional sport to what we already provide throughout the year.

“I like the concept that GFA will assist its clubs and coaches and include our athletes in their clubs during the year. Inclusion is very important to us, and health and wellness is also very important to us. We’re so thankful to GFA for this and we look forward to continuing this program for our athletes for many years to come,” Lorenzo added.

SOGU has a total of six sporting programs for the year: Athletics (Track and Field),Swimming, Unified Bowling, Unified Badminton, Unified Softball and beginning this fall season, Unified Soccer. This sport event will cultivate, support and enrich the development of Unified Soccer on island for persons with or without disabilities, according to a media release by Special Olympics Guam.

Athletes registered will begin weekly training sessions at GFA with coaches Oct. 5 and every Saturday to Nov. 23, coinciding with weekly matches of the Triple J Auto Group Robbie Webber Youth Soccer League. On Nov. 30, the athletes will take part in a GFA-Special Olympics Guam Jamboree event at GFA.

“One of our new missions is inclusion, and we’re promoting this through unified sports,” said Paul Mendiola, Special Olympics Guam board member and National Sports Director. “Unified sports is not just about the athletes participating, but to be included throughout the yearlong process of joining a team and being part of the team’s activities. It’s our hope that when these athletes start to train, they not only train prior to an event, but year round.

“How we can accomplish this is by partnering with an organization like GFA and their members, with athletes continuing to participate in their events and activities during the year. I’m very grateful for this partnership,” Mendiola added.

Athletes may register by contacting Special Olympics Guam by phone at 648-7648 or by messaging the organization via Facebook, @specialolympicsguam (


Photo caption
Representatives from Guam Football Association and Special Olympics Guam, as well as Special Olympics Guam athletes, pose for a group photo following a press conference held at the GFA National Training Center announcing the creation of Unified Soccer for all athletes, in line with Special Olympics International's inclusion movement evolution. GFA President Tino San Gil and Special Olympics Guam President and CEO Frank Florig signed a Memorandum of Agreement during the press conference, with the document outlining guidelines for the creation of Unified Soccer for Guam's athletes. Weekly training sessions will begin Oct. 5 through to the GFA-Special Olympics Guam Jamboree on Nov. 30. Photo by Samantha Bautista / GFA

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