Drive around the streets of Kansas City in the evenings or on the weekends and you will most certainly find soccer being played. Athletes of all ages and levels play the beautiful game while enjoying the benefits of teamwork, comradery and physical activity. With a new partnership between the Special Olympics and MLS WORKS, teams from around the league are partnering with local Special Olympics chapters to host exchange games in their stadiums in order to give athletes with intellectual disabilities a taste of what being a professional soccer player would be like.
On Saturday, Special Olympics Colorado traveled to Kansas City for an exchange game versus Special Olympics Kansas at Sporting Park. Both teams were given the first team experience – including a pregame meal, locker rooms complete with full team uniforms, a pre-game visit from midfielder Roger Espinoza and a special message from Manager Peter Vermes. Following the first team match, the teams were scheduled to take the field for warmups and be announced to the crowd before playing on the pitch in front of the supporters. This was before a series of thunderstorms delayed and ultimately cancelled the evening's games.
With Special Olympics Colorado traveling from Denver, both sides decided to meet on Sunday morning at the Sporting KC training facility located within Swope Soccer Village to play the much anticipated game. Both unified teams consisted of Special Olympians or “Athletes” and neuro-typical classmates or “Partners." Two 20-minute halves were played and the game was full of excitement with goals being scored throughout. Ultimately, Special Olympics Colorado traveled home with a 3-2 victory but not before both teams received commemorative medals and exchanged scarves.
In August, Special Olympics Kansas will travel to Colorado for the second half of the home-and-away series following the Sporting KC versus Colorado Rapids match on August 29. To learn more about the upcoming game or other Community events, please follow @VictoryKC on twitter or visit VictoryKC.org.