It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Eli Wolff, who has passed away unexpectedly at the age of 45.

Eli was a passionate advocate for access and inclusion, and a key player in improving the rights of disabled people both in the United States, his home country, and across the world.

As a member of the USA Cerebral Palsy National Team, Eli represented his country at both the 1996 and 2004 Paralympic Games as well as the IFCPF World Cup and three ParaPan American Games.

After retiring from his playing career, Eli became a leading voice on inclusion and how sport can lead to greater improvements within the wider society. He worked to change the perception around disability in sport, to one of empowerment and elite performance.

Eli helped to establish the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, ensured sport was included in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and successfully campaigned for the creation of an ESPY Award for the best male and female disabled athletes.

Eli was an instructor with the Sport Management program at the University of Connecticut and co-directed the Power of Sport Lab, a platform to fuel and magnify innovation, inclusion, and social change through sport.  He also co-founded Disability in Sport International, Athletes for Human Rights, and the Olympism Project.

In more recent years Eli was a founding member of the Football for All Disability in Football Alliance, alongside CAFE, Integrated Dreams and Gabriel Mayr. The Alliance aims to ensure disabled people’s participation beyond playing aspects of sport and address the low level of disabled people in decision making roles in football. It represents organisations and individuals that are focused and passionate about the big picture of disability inclusion and aims to act as a vehicle to connect, raise awareness and push the disability-inclusion agenda forward.

CAFE Senior Manager Joanna Deagle said, “The world has lost a true advocate of inclusion and the empowerment of disabled people. Eli has done so much to campaign for a society where disabled people can take their rightful places, and his impact will continue to be felt for many years to come. He was a great friend, and his passing is an enormous loss”.

In a joint statement, José Soares and Joana Cal of Integrated Dreams said, “Eli was a pivotal person in the development of the Football for All Leadership Programme and we are forever grateful for his support. It was a privilege to share this space with such a generous agent of change for a more inclusive world. We will miss him immensely and will do our best to honour his memory and work”.

Gabriel Mayr added, “Eli has taught all of us how to lead by kindness, connecting people and strengthening the field like no other. The alliance is a true example of that, as he was able to bond together professionals from around the world that are working together toward a common goal. He will be missed, but his legacy will remain in this and many initiatives that he was involved”.

Our thoughts are with Eli’s wife Cheri, his two children Stella and Spencer, and all of his colleagues, friends and family.

A supremely talented player and advocate, Eli was also passionate about poetry. On this sad day, we hope you find comfort in his words from one of his poems, titled ‘Shine’.

Image of Eli Wolff with his poem

Rest in peace Eli, we will never forget you.

Published 11/4/2023