The Euro qualifiers match between Montenegro and England yet again placed the It’s About Ability campaign in the spotlight of nationwide efforts to promote inclusion of children with disabilities into Montenegrin society.
Lazar Dragojevic, a 15 year old child advocate from the It’s About Ability billboards handed over the football to the referee before the start of the game. He was greeted with big round of applause from more than 10 000 spectators at the stadium, while the estimate was that more than 40 million people were watching the game on TVs worldwide.
Lazar was born with cerebral palsy. His love for football made him stronger and helped him recover from several surgeries he had to undergo to improve his walking.
‘’For me this is a great success when I came out on the field. I gave the ball to the referee. I cannot describe to you how I felt. Surely, this is something that every boy would wanted to do, but still, this opportunity was created for me, and of course I took advantage of it,’’ said Lazar.
Football is a universal language that brings all people together. Through football children learn valuable lessons on friendship, solidarity and fair play, but also on respect for the others.
‘’We would like to support inclusion through sports and to invite sports clubs in Montenegro to include children with disabilities in their regular sports activities. Because when the focus is on scoring a goal, every child’s abilities become important. It’s about ability.’’ said Ivan Radovic, spokesman of Montenegrin Football Association.
The UNICEF Representative, Benjamin Perks stressed that sport can be a powerful tool for raising awareness on the inclusion of children with disabilities.
‘It’s excellent when national and international sporting heroes can come together and galvanize communities and society behind the idea of inclusion of children with disability. Football and sport in general has so much power to demonstrate the importance of children regardless of disability, being able to realize their potential and realize their dreams.’’ said UNICEF Representative, Benjamin Perks.
What started as a campaign has evolved into a movement supporting full inclusion of children with disabilities into all aspects of life in Montenegro – families, schools and communities.
The Government of Montenegro, UNICEF, EU Delegation, Council of Europe, UN system, OSCE, Embassies, Associations of Parents of Children with disabilities, Centre for Child Rights and other civil sector organizations promoting child rights, all print and electronic media, the private sector, children with and without disabilities and parents from all over the country joined a broad coalition of over 100 partners supporting “It’s about ability”.