To those who don’t recognize any barriers to a love of football...

The Turkish Football Federation is calling everyone to chase a ball. The ‘Herkes Için Futbol’ campaign is continuing with a December 3rd Day for the Physically Challenged.

Football is a passion. Although we knew that we couldn’t afford new ones, we wore our new shoes to play the game we loved, kicking the ball but unable to play for more than 5 minutes before we were punished severely for ruining them. In time, we gave up playing and became misunderstood football players that had to love the game from a distance. We couldn’t pursue our football dreams as we used to, playing in all weather conditions, sacrificing our vocal chords and money for the game. Every fan, at one time or another has wished he could have been a football player.

The Turkish Football Federation has begun the ‘Herkes Için Futbol’ campaign for football fans who never realized their dreams to become players.  With the slogan, “Football Recognizes no Barriers” the campaign is designed to encourage everyone in Turkey to take an active part in football, not only as a spectator, but to join in activities in categories such as amateur football, school football, beach football, indoor football, football for the disadvantaged (homeless, street kids), football for the mentally or physically challenged, veterans’ (senior citizens) football and women’s football.

The UEFA is attempting to gather together people who wouldn’t ordinarily have an opportunity to play football through its Grassroots’ program.  A former National basketball player, Zeynepgül Ene, is a coach who is spearheading the campaign in Turkey. Over a period of two months, festivals will be held in 14 separate provinces.  The Ülker-sponsored events will culminate on December 3rd with the commemoration of Disability Day in Adana.

Full support from the community

Ene indicated that the campaign to encourage active participation in football had been initiated by Gündüz Tekin Onay who passed away on July 5th and Hasan Doğan, current president of the TFF. Ene, who is the Director of the Football Development Center ‘Herkes Için Futbol’ campaign said, “Turkey has 6.5 million disabled citizens. There are almost 5,000 disabled footballers who are successful on different platforms. We want to call attention to the achievements of these citizens and illustrate how they have adapted in their daily lives to their disabilities.  We also want to emphasize the benefits of that sports have contributed to their lives.”

The festivals, which will begin on October 11th in Ankara, Bursa, Erzurum, Istanbul, Kayseri, Trabzon and Van, will continue with events in Adana, Antalya, Diyarbakır, Izmir, Malatya, Sakarya and Samsun.  Pointing out that support from the art world was lacking, Ene stated that the football world, former footballers, referees and the ministry supported the campaign fully in its efforts to mobilize the nation into playing football.

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