This past Saturday, eight Special Olympics teams met for a one-day tournament at Kellogg Avenue Park to play soccer, enjoy competition and embrace equality.
With MLS celebrating “Soccer For All” this week to promote the sport for everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation and handicaps, FC Cincinnati went to the games to watch and promote the campaign.
As players walked toward their fields, signs read “SOCCER FOR ALL” and “FUTBOL PARA TODOS.”
“The game of soccer is so versatile,” former FCC player and club ambassador Omar Cummings said. “So many people can play it and the simplicity of the game, it’s a ball and a goal and friends or opponents playing against each other.
“You can play in the mud, you can play in the grass, you can play it on turf and you can play it in the sand. You can play when it’s raining, snowing, whatever. The game goes on. It goes on in everybody.”
Cummings said he loved watching the matches Saturday morning. As one match ended and another kicked off, smiles and cheering were continuous and contagious.
“Everyone can enjoy (soccer), even those amongst us that a lot of people look upon like they can’t do much,” Cummings said. “They’re showing us they can do it, they’re enjoying it, they’re loving it and having just as much fun, if not more fun playing the game than anyone else.”
Marc Harris, the head coach of a team from Greater Dayton replicated those sentiments.
Harris, who is an FCC season ticket-holder, said he’s helped coach teams in Special Olympics for roughly 10 years and gets as much out of the athletes and the games as the players themselves.
“I get a lot of satisfaction working with all of them,” he said. “They’re a lot of fun with the interactions with them all the time. This just gives them an opportunity to compete, challenge themselves to be better and to prove to themselves that they can actually be better than they think they can be.”
Soccer is for everyone. The matches this past Saturday are a reminder, just as FC Cincinnati’s game against the New York Red Bulls this upcoming Saturday night at Nippert Stadium will be, too.
As for the Special Olympics, Harris said they’re crucial and incredibly beneficial.
“I think it’s extremely important because it gives them an outlet to build confidence in everyone who competes,” he said. “Everybody needs a little confidence before they can success in life, and this gives them an opportunity for that.”