Special Olympians Travel To Chicago For MLS’ Tenth Unified Match

Special Olympics Unified

This weekend, Orlando City will be traveling to Chicago to play an MLS match against the Chicago Fire. But they won’t be traveling alone. They will be accompanied by some local athletes from Special Olympics, who will be participating in the Special Olympics’ Unified match that same evening. 

The Special Olympics’ Unified match is part of an ongoing partnership between MLS and Special Olympics North America. On Sunday, after the conclusion of the MLS match, Orlando and Chicago players will join Special Olympians from their communities for a competitive match. This match will be the 10th out of 15 Unified games this season.

During the build up to this match, the Special Olympians have received the full Orlando City experience. On Sunday’s match against the Seattle Sounders, the athletes were introduced at halftime, in front of a crowd of 28,000 people. On Thursday, they got to visit training and were given the opportunity to train with some of the Orlando City players, including Kaká. 

“I’ve been working with them since I was in Italy,” Kaká said after meeting the athletes. “I’m happy that they did it today and that they’re gonna be with us in Chicago.”

For these athletes and their coaches, this opportunity has been a dream come true. “This has been an incredible experience for us,” their head coach Silvia Hass said. “I just couldn’t believe that there would be this incredible opportunity for Unified Sports to engage with MLS athletes.” 

For many of these athletes, the sights and sounds of a normal match can be unbearable. The constant sounds of the crowd cheering and the whistles being blown, the change in location, and the constantly changing road conditions, such as sleeping in a hotel, can be very overwhelming. “As an organization, we work with individuals with autism and other disabilities,” the head coach said. “So being able to put them in a whole new experience… is really a challenge for our athletes,” said Hass. 

But these Olympians have risen above those challenges to become one of the best Unified sports teams in the state of Florida. And they’re excited to travel with Orlando City, and to have the opportunity to train with Kaká.

“They’re super excited,” Hass said. “That’s their hero… All these athletes out here are heroes for our players.”

“I know they’re gonna do a great job. They’re so excited, they’ve been working hard. This will be a memory that they will never forget.”