A club noted for its social spirit Valencia CF has a thriving team for the mentally disabled where the emphasis is put on players enjoying themselves as well as winning games.
Valencia set up a football team for the mentally challenged in 2015, named Francisco Esteve, that offered the chance to have fun playing football and at the same time instilling the values that the club hold high.
In the Valencia region, the league is split up into three divisions split up on the severity of the handicap, and the blanquinegros have two teams that play in the second and third categories. They are mixed, male and female, and there are a total of 17 players divided into the two teams.
There are three periods, the first two are ten minutes long and the other eight minutes. The rules are adapted to favour keeping the game going and the values that go beyond the meaning of scoring a goal.
“The idea is to enjoy playing at the end of the day, enjoy scoring goals. The reason why we have no offsides is because the most important thing is to score and for them to enjoy themselves,” said coach Jesús Oliva.
“We will try and even it out as well so if one team has a player less then we will play also with fewer players.”
Oliva said that the games are played in a good spirit where fair-play is very important.
“If we see someone does a bad foul then we will take them off ourselves,” he explained.
“We will not wait for the referee to make a decision, if there is a foul then the player goes over to the other player and shakes his hand, helps them up. It is important the values but the truth is that I learn more from them.
“They play with heart and it is something that you don’t see as much at a professional level. Like I said, they teach me more than I teach them. I am delighted to be part of the coaching staff, I am quite busy at the moment but if there is one thing I will always find time for it is training them.”
VCF train on Fridays, when they exercise and work on methodology which is adapted to each playeras the level of demand depends on what each player can do. There is a general attitude towards the group which means the team wins and loses together. Obviously there are situations where someone who beats a player and scores but this is not what we are concentrating on.
“The important thing is that we progress each year and that if we have two teams one year then we add another the next,” said Oliva.
“For me it is enjoyable to see the progress. Here we have better training than some of the other teams don’t have the same level with perhaps players not passing the ball as well.
“Before starting we shake hands and afterwards, while each game ends with a penalty shoot-out so everyone has the chance to score. Then we take photos together and the players often go off afterwards in groups.”
The fair-play was shown last season when the league title was shared between Valencia CF and Cove after they drew their match.
Oliva explained: “We finished 5-5 and the official decided to crown both teams as champions rather than trying to find a winner, why can’t both teams win?
“I have a daughter who is 17 years old and when she comes down everyone is very friendly with her and they also go and watch her play.
“Last season eight buses full of people came down to watch a game and at the end fans went up to players for an autograph as if they were football stars it was good fun.”
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