By Liana Shivers, VA Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
Do you remember your first in-person soccer game? The bright stadium lights, the green grassy field (is it real grass or fake grass – you wonder), the buzz of energy in the air right before the game kicks off? For a few AALEAD youth and staff, it was Sunday August 22nd when AALEAD was invited as a Game Day Partner to the Washington Spirit game at Audi Field in D.C.!
The day was full of excitement, confusion and aha moments. We lapped the stadium three times before finding our way to our seats. We had various levels of soccer experience among us – from those who’ve played before to those of us who only knew not to pick the ball up with your hands. The critical question of the day was which team do we root for?
“The home team!”
“Which team is the home team?”
Those who knew a thing or two quickly pointed out the blue jerseys of the Spirit and settled in explaining the different positions or telling stories. Youth from different regions shared thoughts on soccer plays and moves, and joined each other for food breaks. We all leaned forward when Spirit almost made a goal and laughed when some of us started cheering only to realize the ball did not go in the net.
As the game progressed, a bright pink digital banner encircled the field calling attention to Japanese Heritage Night in honor of the ongoing friendship between the U.S. and Japan. We received bright pink rally towels with cherry blossoms printed on them and were able to take a photo with an Olympic torch – one of the many from this year’s Olympic games in Tokyo!
And the torch wasn’t the only one that traveled from Tokyo to be there. The Washington Spirit were also celebrating the return of U.S. Olympic medalists Emily Sonnet, Kelley O’Hara, and Julia Roddar, and Saori Takarada who played for Japan. Youth happily stood in line to get their signatures after the team won the game 2-1, signaled by bright red fireworks that lit up the sky and the roar of cheers that shook the stadium. It was a fun afternoon and a great way to kick off the first of many in-person events as AALEAD programs return to in-person for the fall.
Thank you to the Washington Spirit team and staff for inviting AALEAD as your Game Day Partner! Thank you for allowing AALEADers to not only watch the exciting soccer game but also for providing an opportunity to create long-lasting memories with youth!