Connecticut Football Club (CFC) and Quinnipiac University together are sending 40 coaches to MLS-sponsored Soccer Night in Newtown to help out the devastated community in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff.
Initiated by Houston Dynamo president and Quinnipiac alumni Chris Canetti, Soccer Night in Newtown began as a collaboration between concerned Dynamo players, CFC coaches and Quinnipiac coaches, but then MLS got involved and it blossomed to where there’s 40 MLS and U.S. National Team stars participating in the program.
The Newtown families will play small-sided games and meet players like Landon Donovan, Mia Hamm, Brian Ching, Tony Meola, Kristine Lilly, Kenny Cooper and the San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcus Tracy, who grew up in Newtown and whose mother once taught at Sandy Hook elementary school. Eight players from the nearby New England Revolution will participate in the event. Click here for the full list of all participating players.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber cancelled his plans to attend FIFA's glittering Ballon d'Or in Zurich, Switzerland, and will attend Soccer Night in Newtown instead.
But it all began with Canetti’s phone call to Eric DeCosta, who is the head coach at Quinnipiac and also coaches for CFC.
CFC prepares for Soccer Night in Newtown
Steve Coxon, president and a majority investor in CFC Azul, spoke with me on Sunday about how the club is preparing for the program, set for Monday, January 7.
Approximately 30 of CFC’s youth soccer players live in Newtown, so the tragedy struck close to home. CFC fields PDL CFC Azul (men’s) and WPSL CFC Passion (women’s) at the top of the pyramid and around 95 youth teams, with one branch based out of the Newtown area.
“Everybody in this area is devastated by what went on,” said Coxon, a Newcastle native. “It’s a way our coaches feel they can give something back to the community. Everybody on the other side here is kind of helpless and what we’re trying to do is bring back a little bit of normalcy to the lives of the Newtown people and put some smiles on the kids' faces again.
We’re hoping on a night like this they can just forget about everything that went on for at least a couple of hours and meet players like Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm and just have a good time.”
LE: You’re so close. What was your reaction when you found out about the school shootings?
Coxon: I was in Florida at a general meeting for our soccer club when I heard the breaking news. I have a couple children who live in a town about 10 miles away, so they were all at school. With all the different stories that were going around - we were getting so much misinformation - and with a lockdown on schools in that area, it was a dreadful morning.
LE: Did CFC lose any of your young players in the tragedy?
Coxon: No, we did not, but I believe there were four children that played for Newtown Soccer, the travel organization. A few of our boys were in the school and all of them got out okay.
LE: What has been CFC’s role in the program?
Coxon: We’re donating the time, it’s our practice night. We always practice at Newtown Youth Academy on a Monday night so we’re donating the time and our coaching staff. None of our CFC kids are actually going to be there, it’s just for Newtown residents.
MLS are going to run the whole affair now. They have some coordination specialists that are going to come in and they’re going to run the whole event. We’re going to show up tomorrow, the whole coaching staff will be there at 2 p.m. tomorrow and they’re going to explain the situation and how it’s going to be handled. We’re going to walk through the procedures and they’ll tell us what to say.
Our role at this point is just to try to bring some normality to these kids' lives. For us, it’s letting them get out there and play soccer, which is what we all love to do in our club.
Click here for more information about Connecticut Football Club.
Soccer Night in Newtown is for Newtown residents only and not open to the public.
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