In keeping with the theme of using soccer as a tool for global social change, the Portland Thorns hosted some very special guests this week. Last Thursday night, a delegation of girls from Singapore was in attendance to watch the Thorns take on FC Kansas City. These girls, ranging in age from fourteen to twenty, all play soccer in Singapore, and were specifically chosen to make the trip as part of a goodwill mission on behalf of the United States Embassy.
The goal of the trip is to build a stronger relationship with Singapore through the common language of youth sports. In Singapore, a very small percentage of girls participate in sports, especially soccer. The coach of the Singapore women’s national team accompanied the group, seeing first-hand the structure of the youth development programs in the United States.
Karen Willoughby is the program director of The International Center. She wrote the grant for the trip two years ago, before the National Women's Soccer League and Portland Thorns FC even existed. She says the timing couldn’t be better, with the creation of the new league allowing the girls to see some of the top female players in the world.
During the week, the girls were joined by local high school soccer players who gave them a taste of what it’s like to be an American high school student athlete. The girls visited Grant High School and practiced with a local youth team.
On Thursday night, the team visited JELD-WEN Field and got to spend time on the field watching the Thorns warm up before the game. They saw Alex Morgan score twice and Courtney Wetzel and Danielle Foxhoven each add a goal as the Thorns defeated FC Kansas City 4-3.
Next the team travels to California to explore San Francisco and meet with faculty at Stanford University. They will return to Singapore with an understanding of the level they can achieve as students and soccer players with the right dedication and development.