Rio Paralympics can 'open doors' for inclusion, says Romario

Rio de Janeiro:The Paralympic Games in Rio will help transform perceptions in Latin America about people with impairment, football great Romario said.

The former Barcelona and Selecao striker said the September 7 to 18 Games could "open doors" for greater inclusion, not just in Brazil but across the region.

"The Paralympic movement can help combat prejudice against people with an impairment and help society comprehend the capacity of these people," Romario told the International Paralympic Committee website on Wednesday.

"If they can win in sport, they can also do it in their private lives and work. This will open lots of doors for people with an impairment and all of society will enjoy the benefits of that inclusion."

Romario said the Paralympics had been close to his heart since the birth of his daughter, Ivy, who has Down syndrome.

Just like the Olympic Games, which ended on Sunday, the Rio Paralympics have never before been held in South America.

"I hope that more and more people will be impacted by the Paralympics and its transforming power," said Romario, who is an ambassador for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.

"Being conscious of the capability of people with impairment is important to all people and nations. Furthermore, the competition will encourage more people with an impairment to try the sport and experience its benefits."

Widely regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time, Romario was capped 70 times for Brazil, scoring 55 goals.

He was part of the Selecao's 1994 World Cup-winning team and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award the same year. He is now a federal senator in Brazil.