The Special Olympics Korea 2023 K League Unified Soccer All-Star Game, organized and hosted by Special Olympics Korea (President Lee Yong-hoon) and the Korea Professional Football Association (President Kwon Oh-gap) and broadcast by Sky Sports, has come to a close.
Held at Hwajung Gymnasium of Korea University in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul on the 9th, the '2023 Special Olympics Korea K League Unified Football All-Star Game' is the only all-star game for developmentally disabled footballers in Korea, where players from unified soccer teams who have performed brilliantly this year and former and current players from the K League play together as a team, starting in 2021 for the first time. It also marks the end of the year-long journey of the Special Olympics Korea-K League Unified Soccer Program. The All-Star Game featured former and current K League players, Team Goale, and unified soccer players (Special Olympics and partner players), and was attended by more than 100 people with developmental disabilities and 300 fans. Team Love consisted of Kim Sang-hyeop (Seoul), Kim Kang-san (Daegu), Park Tae-joon (Seongnam), Byun Joon-soo (Daejeon), Lee Seung-hyun (retired), Lee Ho, Park Mourinho, and Kang Me-one (Goale), while Team Fruit included Kim Seung-seop (Jeju), Lee Chang-yong (Anyang), Lee Sang-hyeop (retired), Gurteeta, Sun Navarro, and Hong Butts (Goale).
The six-a-side futsal match ended in favor of Team Love, with Kang Me-one, Lee Myung-sung, Lee Ho, Lee Yong-soo, and Lee Sang-hyeop scoring five goals, and Gurteeta, Song Si-heon, Kim Seung-seop, and Lee Chang-yong scoring four goals.
Following the game, an event was held to give away memorabilia of K League players as a thank you to the fans who attended the All-Star Game. Kim Seung-seop, Park Tae-joon, and Byun Joon-soo shared their memories with meaningful gifts, including Kim Kang-san's jersey, 안전놀이터 Kim Sang-gyeon's soccer shoes, Kim Hyun-gyeon's neck warmer, Lee Chang-yong's Anyang FC winter coat, and an autographed All-Star Game ball.
Before the game and at halftime, Goale and K League players entertained the spectators with various events such as the '2-on-3 Defense Challenge' and 'Football Ring Challenge'. The game was followed by an all-star match between mixed teams of Special Olympics athletes (with developmental disabilities) and their partners (without disabilities) who participated in the '2023 Special Olympics Korea K League Unified Cup'. At the awards ceremony after the game, all players who participated in the all-star game received medals, with Cho Young-bae receiving the MVP award, Hwang Beom-soo receiving the ceremony award, and Jeon Chi-kyu receiving the coach's trophy.
"The Unified Soccer All-Star Game is a time and space where unity, understanding and respect for each other coexist," said Special Olympics Korea President Lee Yong-hoon in his opening remarks. "Their passion and teamwork will inspire us and give us a spark of hope."
"I would like to thank Mr. Kwon Oh-gap, the President of the Korea Professional Football Association (KPA), and all of our employees for accompanying Special Olympics Korea in unified soccer this year, as well as the K League players and Team Goale for their joyful participation in the All-Star Game," said Lee Yong-hoon. "I would also like to thank Hyundai Motor Group, Hana Financial Group, Korea Asset Management Corporation, Lingtee, and Dongwon Samul for their sponsorships to help Special Olympics athletes have fun playing soccer."
Meanwhile, at the Special Olympics Korea 2023 K League Unified Soccer All-Star Game, actor Lee Jung-hyun was inducted as a Special Olympics Korea Ambassador. Lee encouraged the unified soccer players who participated in the All-Star Game and plans to continue promoting sports for people with developmental disabilities with Special Olympics Korea.