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Everyone is a Winner

UNICEF supports Second Children Paralympic Games in Azerbaijan


SUMGAYIT, November 2016 – “When we see children with a disability, we should not focus on what they cannot do. Let us instead recognise what they can achieve. Because you can achieve so much,” said UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan Edward Carwardine at the opening of the 2nd Children Paralympic Games in Azerbaijan.

Children Paralympic Games were held on November 11th 2016, at the Paralympic Sports Complex in Sumqayit, about 30 kilometres away from the capital, Baku.  70 athletes were competing at beginner level in five different categories: judo, swimming, table tennis, boccia and goalball.

 “And today, every young athlete here at the Second National Children’s Paralympic Games is a champion – because by being here today, and by demonstrating their amazing talents, these young people are already winners.”

First three categories are traditionally well known, whereas, boccia and goalball are yet not as well recognized. Boccia translates as “ball” from Latin. It`s a special game adapted for people with motor skills disabilities. Goalball is a game played with a ball and designed for people with vision impairments.

Children Paralympic Games has been held in Azerbaijan for the second time. There were 14 champions including twofold champions this time; one of them was 13 years old Aytac Gasimli who ranked first place in two consecutive years.  

She took up table tennis with her father`s advice who used to be a professional table tennis player. She has always believed in her victory, yet she also adds that she had strong opponents. 

 “I`m very happy about my winning! I will participate in the games next year as well. I want to be a coach in the future,” says Aytac. She will compete in adult Paralympic Games in two years, and she believes that she is ready for it.

Her coach, Rugiya Gubushova believes that Aytac is talented to take her place one day among Paralympic champions of Azerbaijan. This year in Rio, 22 competitors from Azerbaijan took part in the world Paralympic Games, in 6 sports and winning 11 medals.

One of the other twofold champions in the games was 15 year old Rufat Bayramov who plays boccia for the last one and a half years. Boccia is one of the types of sports that lets even those with the severe cerebral palsy to show their abilities (Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance, and posture).

Rufat says that game helped him a lot. “I didn`t have any goals before. But now, I want to play and be the best one.”

Coaches and phycologists agree that exercises have good results on Rufat`s overall wellbeing. He is more active, energetic, and happy. It`s explained by boccia`s influence on development of hands` motor skills, improvement of coordination in movements, and strengthening of cognitive skills.

Children Paralympic movement is at the beginning of its journey. It was inspired by establishment of Children Paralympic Committee within National Paralympic Committee of Azerbaijan that works with adult sportsmen. New structure has an objective of attracting children with disabilities to sport, along with their rehabilitation and integration to the society. 

Children Paralympic Committee was established with the support of UNICEF that works on promoting sport and the right of play in Azerbaijan through different partnerships, such as it work with AFFA (Association of Football Federations) on inclusion of girls in sport or through international consultancy to help government create an inclusive academic process and train coaches to work with children with disabilities.

As part of it efforts to support Children Paralympics, and together with the National Paralympic Committee, UNICEF has produced a series of PSAs to be used on both traditional and social media.

According to Kamal Mammadov, executive director of Children Paralympic Committee, success of little paralympic sportsmen has started to spread throughout the world. They are planning to have talks with national paralympic committees of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia to plan international games for the near future.

Even though, prejudices of family members and society are starting to slowly disappear, unsuitable infrastructure of the city for people with disabilities, remain as primary issue of concern.   

According to Vagifa Bayramova, boccia coach, lack of funds affect her work with children. Trainings take place at the children rehabilitation center located in Ganjlik, in a small room that patients of the center use as a dressing room; also, inventories need constant renewals.   “You cannot do much without investment,” says coach, also pointing out that the ramp at the entrance of the building was installed very recently and children on wheel chairs had to be carried in the near past.

Paralympic sport has been developing in Azerbaijan for a while now. Azerbaijani sportsmen took place in Paralympic games in Atlanta in 1996 for the first time, and have been participating in summer games since then. Azerbaijani sportsmen are particularly successful at judo and the country has the third place in Paralympic movement all around the world in this category. Famous judoka with visual impairment Ilham Zakiev came to Sumgayit for Children Paralympic Games to support kids.

While officials tend to focus more on the number of medals, UNICEF aims more at helping children to be active in social life through sport and improve their physical and psychological well-being.

Winning medals can also be a great motivation in achievement of that goal.





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