10 disabled children had the opportunity to attend the Russian national team’s training session in Novogorsk on 5th October.

The visit was arranged by the Russian Football Union (RFU) and the Russian charity Dream Ski (Лыжи мечты), which uses sport as part of its disability rehabilitation programmes.

Sergei Belogolovtsev, the founder and Director of Dream Ski, explained the importance of this visit, “[Disabled] children should be attending all sport events, and since football is the world’s main sport, there should be lots of football fans among them.”

The kids braved the rain to watch the training session, and were able to have their photographs taken with the team and get the players’ autographs. Some of the children even had the chance to play football with National Coach Stanislav Cherchesov and goalkeeper and national team captain, Igor Akinfeev.

Vladimir Granat, who plays for Rubin Kazan at club level, said “We are really pleased to take part in this event, it is the right thing to do and really important. These kids are an example to us, of how to fight and win and not rest on our laurels. These sorts of meeting give us only positive emotions.”

Dmitry Poloz added, “I’d like these events to happen even more often. We’re always happy to be part of them.”

The training session was in preparation for Russia’s friendly against South Korea which took place in CSKA’s VEB Arena on Saturday 7th October. As part of the RFU’s initiative to improve access to and inclusion in football, over 500 tickets were given to disabled fans to attend Saturday’s game, which Russia won 4-2.

CAFE Consultant, Elena Popova, who helped coordinate the accessible services and ticketing in the run-up to the match said, “It was incredible. When the RFU and I sent out the match-day invites, I never expected so many people to be interested. It goes to show that disabled people, like non-disabled people, want to lead an active life and take part in all kinds of events.”

A version of this article is also available in Russian.

Published 16/10/2017