Hosted and organized by Special Olympics Korea (President Lee Yong-hoon) and the Korea Professional Football Association (President Kwon Oh-gap), and broadcast by Sky Sports, the 2023 Special Olympics Korea K League Unified Football All-Star Game took place on December 9 at Hwajung Gymnasium at Korea University in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul.
The ‘2023 Special Olympics Korea K League Unified Soccer All-Star Game’, which was first held in 2021 and is now in its third year, is the only all-star game for soccer players with developmental disabilities in Korea where players from unified soccer teams and former and current players from the K League play together as a team. It is also a festival that concludes the year-long journey of Special Olympics Korea-K League Unified Soccer.
In particular, the All-Star Game featured former and current K League players, Team Goale, and unified soccer players (Special Olympics athletes and their partners), and was attended by more than 100 athletes 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).
In the 6-a-side futsal match, Kang Me-one, Lee Myung-sung, Lee Ho, Lee Yong-soo, and Lee Sang-hyeop scored five goals for Team Love, and Gurteeta, Song Si-heon, Kim Seung-seop, and Lee Chang-yong scored four goals for Team Lychee, and the match ended in favor of Team Love.
The event was followed by a raffle to give away memorabilia of K League players as a thank you to the fans who visited the All-Star Game. Kim Seung-seop, Park Tae-joon, and Byun Joon-soo shared their memories with meaningful gifts, including their actual jerseys, Kim Kang-san’s soccer shoes, Kim Sang-hyeop’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 spectators with various events such as the ‘2v3 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 the players who participated in the all-star game received medals, with Cho Young-bae winning the MVP award, Hwang Beom-soo winning the ceremony award, and Jeon Chi-kyu winning 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 Yong Hoon Lee 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, 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 participating in the All-Star Game with joy and enthusiasm.” “I would also like to thank Hyundai Motor Group, Hana Financial Group, Korea Asset Management Corporation, Lingtee, and Dongwon Samul for sponsoring the event so that the Special Olympics athletes could enjoy playing soccer,” said Mr. Yong-hoon.
At the 2023 Special Olympics Korea K League Unified Soccer All-Star Game, actor Lee Jung-hyun was appointed 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.