Soccer Night in Newtown gave local families and children a chance to meet with Major League Soccer and U.S. national team stars on Monday night. Participants came out to play in small-sided games and spend an afternoon thinking about the beautiful game rather than the devastation experienced by the Connecticut community in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff.
For a few hours’, the Newtown Youth Academy, a stately, 1930s-era former hospital building quietly tucked back from a main street on the Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown provided respite for about 1,500 residents. What was a quiet, almost serene snow-covered sunny afternoon turned into a surge of children and parents, all pouring through the front entrance and into the large indoor soccer facility with many turned away.
Through MLS W.O.R.K.S., 30 pro players from 11 teams took part including Houston’s Brad Davis and Brian Ching, the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, the New York Red Bulls' Kenny Cooper, the New England Revolution’s Matt Reis, and the San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcus Tracy, who grew up in Newtown and whose mother once taught at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
US national team stars, including Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, Mia Hamm, and Connecticut native Kristine Lilly, also took part.
“When CNN first stated how many people lost their lives, it was complete shock and disbelief,' said the Earthquakes' former Newtown resident Marcus Tracy. "It was unfathomable to think that this happened in the same town I lived in for 18 years, two miles away, at the school my Mom once taught at. It hurts you as a resident of Newtown that something like this could happen, so just try and imagine how parents, brothers, sisters and spouses are feeling right now. You can't - it's impossible."
Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti, a native of nearby Guilford, Conn., organized the event. He insists that “Soccer Night in Newtown” will have legs beyond Monday, and that he intends to bring a similar event back to the community in the spring. By then the snow will have thawed and there won’t be a capacity on an event meant to heal everyone who needs the help.
Check out the Twitter stream of players who participated in the event for photos and reactions.
Players participating in Soccer Night in Newtown:
Zach Loyd, Bobby Warshaw
Corey Ashe, Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark, Tally Hall
Landon Donovan, Sean Franklin, Rafael Garcia
New England Revolution
Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, Hunter Freeman, Ryan Guy, Matt Reis, Clyde Simms, Chris Tierney, Bobby Shuttleworth
New York Red Bulls
Kenny Cooper, Heath Pearce, Ryan Meara
Chris Albright, Ray Gaddis
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
David Estrada, Josh Ford
Brad Knighton , Omar Salgado
US Men’s Legends
Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda, Mike Burns, Tony Meola
US Women’s Legends
Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Christie Rampone
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