Aug. 19, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 15th-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team will take to the Alumni Field pitch for an exhibition match versus Saint Francis (PA) on Monday, Aug. 21 at 7:00 p.m. (ET) in what will be the Irish’s final tune-up before the 2006 season gets underway. Admission to the match is one dollar with all proceeds benefiting Grassroot Soccer, an international AIDS awareness and education organization that reaches youth in Africa through soccer clinics. Further donations are welcome.
A Notre Dame soccer alumnus, who wishes to remain anonymous, will match the donations dollar-for-dollar just as he has the past two years. Head coach Bobby Clark and the Notre Dame men’s soccer camp will also match the donations dollar-for-dollar for this year’s game.
“This is a good way to benefit a very good cause and to do it in a way we enjoy,” says Clark. “All we are doing is playing soccer and people get to come watch us and enjoy the atmosphere and it’s all to help a great foundation.”
Monday evening’s match will mark the third straight year that Notre Dame has held an exhibition game with all proceeds going to benefit Grassroot Soccer. The cause is very important to Clark, since his oldest son, Tommy, is the founder of the organization.
“This is Tommy’s life now,” comments Clark. “It started out as a class project to help the community when he was in medical school at Dartmouth. He chose to use soccer because it’s a game he loves and soccer is obviously huge in Africa.”
Tommy and his younger brother Jamie, now an assistant coach on the Notre Dame staff, spent a year in Zimbabwe, while Bobby coached the Bulawayo Highlanders of the Zimbabwe Super League. Tommy would go on to play for the Highlanders and became quite aware of the disturbing situation at hand with the HIV epidemic in Africa.
The average life expectancy has dropped from 61 to 33 years since 1990, and there are now one million children in Zimbabwe who have been orphaned due to AIDS-related deaths. That information means one in five Zimbabwean children is an orphan as a result of the HIV/AIDS. There is no sign of these figures changing as 30% of pregnant women in Zimbabwe tested positive for HIV in 2003, which will lead to the future loss of their lives as well as that of their child.
Zimbabwe is not alone in these kinds of devastating numbers. Globally, 20 million people have died from the disease and 39 million people are living with the disease today with 95-percent of those people living in the developing world.
While working towards an MD in pediatrics in the United States, Tommy realized he did not want to leave behind the alarming situation in Africa. He desired to be part of a solution to help his friends in Zimbabwe and beyond by using soccer as a tool. Tommy has organized the movement that uses soccer as a way to reach youth not only in Zimbabwe but across the globe as well. Soccer clinics are held with pro players, coaches and youth players getting the message out about healthy behavior and the risks of HIV.
“A lot of people ask me why we use soccer to teach,” says Tommy Clark. “Using well-known soccer players is so important in Africa because those are the role models for the children. Kids learn best from people they respect and in Africa, soccer players are highly respected. Soccer also helps us get into the communities. It helps us relate to people because it’s a common bond.”
“One of the things we are really hoping to do is use the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as a platform to enhance our program,” states the younger Clark. “We want to showcase our high-quality program to the world and showcase soccer with something positive. We hope that can bring us more resources and sponsors along with funding, which is so key for us.”
Another Fighting Irish connection to the cause is Methembe Ndlovu, a native of Zimbabwe who is a former volunteer assistant coach for the Fighting Irish along with coaching the Indiana Invaders of the United States Soccer League. Ndlovu has recently returned to Zimbabwe to help with Grassroot Soccer. Bobby Clark brought Ndlovu over to the United States from his native country in 1993 to study at Dartmouth College. Clark was the head coach at Dartmouth from 1985-93.
The Dartmouth College community has played a huge role in the cause, as have some members of Bobby Clark’s teams at Stanford, where he coached from 1996-2000.
“This (the exhibition match) just used to be a game where we opened our doors to the public for free,” says Bobby Clark. “We always talk about doing something worthwhile and this is an opportunity for the fans and students to help. Nobody misses a dollar, especially when it’s going for a great cause. Normally we get a very good attendance at this match. Last year we raised $2,500.”
For more information on Grassroot Soccer, log onto grassrootsoccer.org.
Notre Dame is hoping to give the fans a good show when they come out to watch on Monday evening. The Fighting Irish are coming off a 1-0 victory versus Drake in exhibition play on Thursday night. Freshman Tamba Samba (Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis) scored the lone goal.
Notre Dame has high aspirations entering the 2006 campaign as the squad returns several key components from last year’s unit, including the bulk of the offense. Notre Dame begins the 2006 season ranked No. 15 in the NSCAA/adidas preseason poll and No. 16 in the College Soccer News rankings. The Irish went 12-8-3 (6-4-1 BIG EAST) last season and are bringing back 27 of 29 goals and 77 of 87 total points from a team that made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 one year ago.
Notre Dame opens the regular season on Friday, Aug. 25 with a showdown against UAB in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Alumni Field. The match is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. (ET), following a match-up between No. 12 Indiana and No. 8 Creighton. The Irish will battle Creighton during the second day of the tournament on Sunday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m.
To stay up to date on the 2006 Notre Dame men’s soccer team, please log on to und.com or call the official Notre Dame athletics hotline at (574) 631-3000.