It doesn’t matter whether you call it football or soccer, the Special Olympics spirit shined as bright as the sun on Saturday at Guam Football Association Complex in Dededo for the inaugural Special Olympics Guam Football Jamboree.

“A few months ago, we formed a partnership that I think is here to stay permanently with the Guam Football Association. The fields are second to none … thank you to everybody that has been involved in making this happen,” Frank Florig, Special Olympics Guam CEO, said.

The partnership between Special Olympics Guam and GFA makes perfect sense with football being the most popular sport in the world.

GFA Competition Director Sam San Gil spoke before a large group of parents, fans and athletes.

“If you want to go somewhere fast, you go alone,” he said. “But, if you want to go somewhere far, you go together.”

He praised the group for their work.

“You couldn’t ask for a better group of people … it will only get bigger and it will only get better,” he said.

Each of the 30 athletes registered in the first season was adopted by a member club from GFA. The athletes spent eight weeks training on the basic fundamentals including passing, dribbling and kicking leading up to Saturday’s jamboree.

The event started with Guam Football National Team players Cheyenne Roberto, Sean Evans, Hannah Cruz, Lola Martin, Marcus Lopez, Samantha Kinney, Colleen Naden and Jason Cunliffe entering the complex after completing the Special Olympics torch run from Anderson Air Force Base to the GFA complex.

“Great to be a part of … glad that GFA has reached out and formed this partnership with Special Olympics Guam. Hopefully the athletes really enjoy it and it’s the first of many,” expressed Cunliffe, captain of Matao.

Dignitaries for the event also included Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, Sens. Telo Taitague, Theresa Terlaje and Will Castro, along with Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares.

Florig also made sure to recognize the armed services, community volunteers, parents and coaches as the driving force for SOG success.

“The power behind Special Olympics is our volunteers and our family members,” praised Florig.

The volunteers said they gained as much from the experience as the athletes.

Tammi Morellano, with the Islanders, said it made her feel good to help the athletes.

“One of them asked me for a hug and I felt so good … they are having a lot of fun and that makes me happy,” Morellano told The Guam Daily Post.

The addition of football, along with badminton in 2019, brings the number of sports to six on the Special Olympics Guam calendar.

Special Olympics Guam will close out the calendar with the Softball Jamboree in mid-December. The 2020 season will kick off with the hugely popular track and field season in January.