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I Camaleonti: sport, inclusion, and the power of adaptability

09 September 2021

Started as a one-shot project in 2019, within the Helvetia Cup tournament organised by Football is More in Lugano, I Camaleonti Special Needs football team is today an established institution aimed at inclusion and equal opportunities for people over 16 with disabilities. Since 2020, IBSA has proudly supported I Camaleonti’s activities, trainings sessions and tournaments, which include both league matches (teams of young people with disabilities) and inclusive matches (typical teams).

The team currently counts 18 young people with different disabilities, who take part in official and unofficial competitions, and it is managed by Boris Angelucci, a UEFA B + diploma holder and former player of FC Lugano and Ticino Football Federation, who acts both as project manager and coach.

But why the name “I Camaleonti” which stands for “The Chameleons” in Italian?  The chameleon is mostly known for its ability to adapt and blend into its surroundings; in this same way, the Camaleonti players demonstrate a great adaptability when playing football, collaborating and interacting with one another.

Coach and project manager Boris Angelucci stated that they like to define themselves as “chameleons” for several reasons: “We optimise the activities so that everyone can participate and have fun, despite their disabilities. Our players know how to adapt depending on the people they challenge or they play with. Moreover, even the people who get to know us are in a certain way chameleons, for they come out with a different idea and perception about disability.”

Playing and having fun within a relaxed and serene environment, the focus is to create a positive and enriching experience for everyone leveraging on the power of sport as a driver for inclusivity and personal growth.

The fact that team members have different disabilities (physical, cognitive, psychic) is an additional instance for collaboration and integration, as it provides opportunity to strengthen team spirit and embrace all those values inherent to team sports.

Although the pandemic put an unexpected halt on face-to-face activities, including trainings, the team did not get discouraged and managed to quickly adapt to keep spirits high even in the new situation.  As Boris Angelucci states: “During the first lockdown in 2020, we kept each other company by making videos, remote challenges and group video-calls. In fact, there were several players who needed to feel the closeness of the other members of the team, which had turned into a real family.”

As soon as circumstances allowed it, outdoor initiatives such as walks in the woods or training for smaller groups on the pitch were organised. Going back outside and getting back in contact with nature were a much-needed positive experience for the people in the team, after so many months spent at home.

In May 2021, training sessions and matches were finally resumed.  

Last June, I Camaleonti took part in a summer camp in Lichtenstein, organised by Football is More, and had the opportunity to spend a week with other great Special Needs teams such as Benfica, Stuttgart, Altach and Brunnen, with the inclusive participation of the first team of FC Vaduz.  

In August, I Camaleonti were guests of the FC Lugano vs FC Internazionale Milano match in Lugano, and on Sunday the 22nd of August, they took part in an inclusive tournament organised with three senior teams. Coach Angelucci is especially happy on how the day went, highlighting how this sport event paired with food and music turned out to be a great opportunity to promote inclusion, solidarity, and the joy of being together once again.

When asked about sport and inclusivity he states that “sport is for everyone regardless of who, how, what and where. Inclusion should be a natural process if each person is put in front of all possibilities, including disability. With IBSA, we have built a synergy that helps us grow, based on people and not on labels.”  As projects and events follow one another, speaking with friends of the football team and people who have had the chance to meet them, Angelucci has realised that I Camaleonti is much more than an inclusivity project or a “second family”: it is a real philosophy of life. In this context, it becomes clear how inclusion should be a natural way of being, placing the Person before anything else, including disability.

This philosophy perfectly aligns with IBSA’s values and its concept of humanisation of care. At IBSA, a patient-centred approach means to respond in a concrete way to the needs and requirements of the individual, to enhance the Person beyond the disease or the disability.

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