Children with Down syndrome played with world football stars at the Legends Cup 2023

On February 10, 2023, at the 15th Jubilee international tournament “Legends Cup” named after Konstantin Eremenko, a Children’s Day called “Our Future” was held. In the first part of the children’s tournament with the famous veterans of Moscow football clubs, trainees of football academies took to the field. The second part brought together fourteen football players from all over the world and children with Down syndrome, wards of the Love Syndrome charitable foundation, who were divided into four teams and played unique friendly matches. 

The Legends Cup event under the motto “Continuity of generations” with the participation of children with Down syndrome was held for the first time. 27 young football players from Moscow, Bryansk Oblast and the Republic of Bashkortostan took to the field. Together with them, as mentors, the following world football legends took part in friendly matches: Dmitry Alenichev, Yegor Titov, Alexei Smertin, Evgeny Aldonin, Alexander Mostovoy (all from Russia), Edmilson, Maicon, Giovanni, Junior Baiano (all from Brazil), Alexander Gleb (Belarus), Fernando Meira, Pedro Mendes (both — Portugal), Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Serbia), Kevin Kuranyi (Germany).  

According to the rules of the children’s part of the tournament, the athletes were divided into four teams: Moscow-1, Moscow-2, Bryansk and a team from the Republic of Bashkortostan. Every six athletes with Down syndrome were joined by two football legends. Each match consisted of two halves of 7 minutes, and a break of 2 minutes. Football legends guided young athletes, showed the secrets of ball handling skills, and also assisted goals. According to the rules, only young football players could score goals. 

Despite the fact that both children with Down syndrome and athletes from around the world played on the field, the football was the link to communicate in any language. Each game turned out to be amazing, all the athletes and their mentors contested the victory to the end. 

Alexei Smertin, head of the project office for sustainable development and social responsibility of the RFU, spoke on Match TV about the importance of holding a tournament for children with disabilities as part of the Legends Cup: “The most important thing is the emotions received during and after the match, which will fill these kids until the next such event, until the next game. The involvement of people with disabilities is important, especially “through the ball”, by playing with the stars.” 

Alexander Gleb, winner of the Champions League, a famous Belarusian football player, spoke about his emotions from playing with children and what such events meant for athletes: “For all of us, professional football players, today’s tournament with children is a holiday! Honestly! A holiday not only for them, but also for us!” 

It was not so easy to determine the winner of the tournament: all teams played alike and showed their sportsmanship. As a result, only after a shootout, Moscow-1 won, second place was taken by athletes from the Republic of Bashkortostan, third place was taken by Moscow-2, fourth place was taken by Bryansk Oblast.  

Results of the tournament between children with Down syndrome: 

1st Place – Moscow-1, 

2nd Place – the Republic of Bashkortostan, 

3rd Place – Moscow-2, 

4th Place – Bryansk Oblast. 

At the end of the games, a victory ceremony was held. In addition to medals and cups, the athletes received souvenirs of the Legends Cup tournament, held a photo and autograph session, and presented their mentors with bright scarves with the emblem of the Love Syndrome Foundation.  

After the official part, the children were in for another surprise. A white car of EXEED BorisHof, a partner of the tournament, drove onto the field. The children took paints in their hands and decorated the car with their drawings, wishes and handprints. Now this car will decorate one of the company’s flagship showrooms in Moscow. 

On February 12, the final matches took place at the Legends Cup 2023 tournament. The Legends of Russia and The Legends of the CIS reached the final game. The participants of the match were accompanied by 25 little wards of the Love Syndrome Charitable Foundation. The Legends of Russia became the winner of the tournament. 

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