In addition to our works around UEFA EURO 2016, CAFE ran a second project designed to help integrate recently-disabled people back into society using the unique power of football.

CAFE made contact with two rehabilitation centres based in the host city of Marseille, and worked with them to identify residents who might be interested in attending a live sporting event.

The residents were then given the opportunity to attend a live match at UEFA EURO 2016, and to talk about how the experience had impacted them.

20 recently-disabled people received a match ticket, and were accompanied to the games by a companion.

Participants were asked to complete a short questionnaire before the match to discuss their thoughts and expectations, and were interviewed again after the match to find out how they had found the experience.

The results of the project were hugely positive, with almost all participants saying that attending a match had been a positive experience and helpful in re-establishing their lifestyle as a disabled person.

CAFE Managing Director Joanna Deagle said, “We have long said that football, the world’s most popular sport, can be a powerful tool to creating social change and improving lives. The Marseille project was a great opportunity to support the reintegration of recently-disabled people into the wider society”.

Prior to the match, only a third of the participants reported that they had considered attending live football matches since becoming disabled. The same number also said that they had concerns ahead of attending the UEFA EURO 2016 match, including being in large crowds and how easily they could get around the venue.

Following the match, around 70% of participants told us that their thoughts around attending live matches were now more positive. All but one of the participants said that they would be interested in attending future matches and live events as a disabled spectator.

One participant, Gregoire, said “If I have one memory from the rehabilitation centre that will remain with me, it is the memory of having attended the match. It develops a certain enthusiasm, it gives you the desire to get out”.

Another participant, Modeste, said that attending live matches was helpful as “it shows that disabled people have the same aspirations and enthusiasm as others. It is very important for integration”.

Patrice, a lifelong football and rugby fan, said he felt “Super happy” on the day of the game, and following the match was “Euphoric but tired. I had a smile on my lips throughout the match”.

Emile is a former football player and lifelong sports fan, and said, “I hadn’t been to the stadium for 40 years. It’s clearly changed a lot. I want to go back as soon as possible”.

Youcef had not thought about attending live matches since becoming disabled, but after the match said, “I witnessed a festival atmosphere and saw a beautiful match. I have discovered that sporting events are accessible for disabled people and am more confident in crowds”.

Since the tournament, the rehabilitation centres have been in contact with Olympique de Marseille and Handifanclub OM to discuss further trips to the stadium for their clients.

CAFE is delighted to report that this project has demonstrated the unique power that football can have in changing disabled people’s lives, with the majority of participants feeling encouraged and motivated to continue attending live sporting events and to relive those moments of pure joy that they experienced during UEFA EURO 2016.