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Villarreal’s team with intellectual disabilities goes international
Villarreal’s team with intellectual disabilities goes international

The team are taking part in sessions with participants of the Player Development Program

Villarreal CF’s team with intellectual disabilities (known in Spanish as EDI) has gone international! Players from the EDI teams are sharing training sessions with promising young talents from different countries who take part in the Player Development Program, which helps form young players at the José Manuel Llaneza Ground.

Alejandro Rodríguez, coordinator of the Player Development Program at the club, explains: “The first activity consisted of sharing a training session together. We came with all our players, of which there are approximately 20. We all got to know each other and the players introduced themselves, saying what nationality they were from and what position they played and we made teams to warm up together and play matches mixing players from the EDI teams and our programme”.

A win-win experience

These shared activities are beneficial for both groups, who enjoy each other and learn to get out of the routine and see other realities. “It gives them the chance to get to know one of the cornerstones of the Endavant programme and the values of the club they are in. The EDI team is an important part and this makes them feel proud to be in the club and develop empathy and maturity because our players had to be responsible for some activities or warm-ups. They are between 11 and 21 years old, they are young kids and this is good for them,” Rodriguez stresses.

“It was a very interesting session because we had to warm up with them and talk to them to get to know them. I really enjoyed the experience,” confirms Ivorian player Jean Grah, to which his Australian team-mate Liam Hoyn adds that “It was a new experience for me and I loved meeting people with different abilities. We learned that everyone, whatever their circumstances, wants to play football and have fun.”

The three representatives of this international programme believe that for the EDI players it was also a rewarding experience. “According to the feedback that the EDI coaches gave us and what we were able to see, their players were very happy to meet people of so many nationalities because it was something new for them in their training and we saw them very motivated in the session and with a smile on their faces,” says Rodríguez. For his part, Grah believes that: “They really enjoyed playing with us. They are very happy, they are always laughing and talking and applauded us when a player did something well. Hoyn also explained his subsequent communication with the EDI team: “I have spoken to EDI players after the activity and they were asking me how we enjoyed it. I think it was a good experience for both teams.”

Joint values

The actions between the Player Development Program and the EDI will continue, as the coordinator of the international programme explains: “We will do another training session together next month. We also want to go and cheer them on a LaLiga Genuine match day and share some kind of activity outside the world of football”.

Through the Endavant project and actions such as this immersion in the EDI team, Villarreal tries to instil values in all the players and coaches of its leading teams in the academy and the women’s first team.

“This club is like a family. I really like the style of play and all the teams play the same way. We can see it with the EDI as well. This club allows the whole town to experience good football. I really like everything that revolves around the club,” says Grah, who, having arrived from the Côte d’Ivoire this season, has been impressed by the Submarine’s football and social work.