Divisione Calcio Paralimpico e Sperimentale has won the Best Disability Initiative at the UEFA Grassroots Awards 2020, after creating the opportunity for thousands of disabled people to play organised football across Italy.

Formerly known as "Quarta Categoria"(4th Category), the Divisione Calcio Paralimpico e Sperimentale (Paralympic and experimental football division) was set up in 2016 and is responsible for organising the first major football tournament for disabled players in Italy. 

Bringing together grassroots clubs, local non-profit organisations and over 80 professional clubs, the tournament's participation levels have continued to grow. 

Quarta Categoria’s first event was in January 2017 with a seven-a-side national football tournament involving nine teams, each of them ‘adopted’ by a professional club.

By 2018/19 there were 116 clubs involved from across 11 regions of Italy, ensuring an opportunity to play football for some 3,000 players.

In 2020, participating clubs have adapted to the ongoing lockdown regulations by providing alternative activities including a FIFA e-sports tournament, an online athletic preparation course for team coaches and an online platform to enable ‘team’ training from home.

Lazio for Special coach Ranieri Romani, commented:

"We’ve been participating in this tournament for four years, in the Quarta Categoria. For me, playing football helps these great guys to feel the great emotions of being part of a group, to build lifelong friendships, and who knows, maybe even to have a certain amount of personal satisfaction."

The Croatian Football Federation were given the Silver Disability Initiative Award, in recognition of the strides taken with the launch of the Special Power League for disabled children in collaboration with NGO Health Life Academy.

This initiative brings together more than 200 disabled children for four separate tournaments throughout the year, with all top-flight clubs joining forces to promote social inclusion and accessibility. 

The Lithuanian Football Federation’s grassroots department, in co-operation with kindergartens, schools and Special Olympics Lithuania, took home the Bronze award for their "Special activities for special kids" initiative.

The festival involving a variety of physical activities, many football-based, was launched in 2015 and continues to attract increased support from several professional clubs across Lithuania.

Elsewhere, Werder Bremen won the 2020 UEFA Grassroots Award for Best Professional Football Club following their outstanding community work including projects for disabled people, refugees, and walking football for the over-60s.

UEFA launched the annual Grassroots Awards in 2010 to reward excellence and shine a light on some of European football's unsung heroes.

Each of UEFA's 55 national associations are invited to nominate candidates each year, with award winners then selected by the UEFA Executive Committee, following recommendations made by the organisation's Grassroots Panel bureau and Development and Technical Assistance Committee.

From everyone at CAFE, a huge congratulations to all of the worthy projects and participants who have been honoured!

Published 20/11/2020