Taking the positives from World Cup and Special Olympics

The world is being treated to a feast of football that for even the passing fan is intoxicating, particularly this year in the exotic location of Brazil, World Cup record holders, long-time world favourites, and home of the greatest footballer Pele.

A global tournament that invokes passion, few can rival it in terms of drama, audience, celebrity, and of course money, and already it has produced its share of surprises.

As a spectacle it is believed to have cost some $11billion (US ) to stage. The Spanish squad alone is worth an estimated $921 million, the World Cup’s most valuable player Lionel Messi is reputed to be worth $177 million, and the 32 competing teams share a pot of $576 millon, with cash bonuses for players who are already earning thousands a week.

The beautiful game is about glamour too, boasting the poster boys of soccer with their posing partners epitomized by Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and partner model Irina Shayk.

Yes, the World Cup has it all. Despite alleged corruption of its governing body, indecent wages, and billions spent on stadia, few would argue that there is another sporting occasion that has quite the same impact.

While millions were tuning into the opening days of the World Cup in Brazil, in a far less exotic location thousands of Irish were also involved in the equivalent of their ultimate sporting occasion. Limerick hosted this year's Special Olympics where the hopes and dreams of its athletes were just as powerful and inspiring.

Special Olympics has allowed participants to demonstrate skill, courage and athletic ability, while also changing public attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities.

And watching the Special Olympians in action, it is impossible to believe that soccer players get as much from competing in a World Cup as Special Olympians do from competing in their much less publicised and less glamorous event.

And isn't that what sport is about? The same qualities of spirit, courage, and confidence are just as evident in Special Olympians as other sports - if not more so. There are large cultural differences across the globe, and thankfully events like the World Cup and Special Olympics are universal experiences that can shape and change opinion. However the World Cup, like most sports tournaments, is just as focused on losing, red cards, hands of god, and pretended agonies, as the winner. In contrast there is a positivity in Special Olympics that not even the World Cup can surpass.


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