TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The Portland Timbers arrived in Tegucigalpa earlier this week to prepare for a vital game against CD Olimpia in the final Group 5 match in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night (7pm PT, FOX Soccer Plus). Should the Timbers win, draw, or even lose by a goal, they’ll be through to the knockout championship quarterfinals next spring. It’s an important game with important stakes.
Also important to the club, however, is a chance to reach out and share with the communities they visit. Following the team’s training session Monday afternoon at the Estadio Tiburcio Caría Andino, the Timbers welcomed a large contingent of local youth and donated a collection of One World Futbol soccer balls and team jerseys provided by the team’s Stand Together Global Assists program. Approximately 50 children were able to observe portions of the training session.
“They’re crazy for soccer here,” said Eric Turner, the Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras who helped organize the group. “These kids are really happy to be here and they’re really happy to meet the players and they’ll be using this equipment at home and with their friends as well.”
The collection of children were made up of three Honduran organizations including an English language and leadership program called Access Micro Scholarships, an after-school Community Outreach Centers program funded by the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
, and a gang-resistance program that teaches kids the tools they need to avoid gang culture.
Following the team’s practice session, Timbers players and coaches greeted the children, signed autographs and posed for photographs as the balls were put to quick use out on the pitch with kids juggling, dribbling and kicking all across the field. It was an opportunity that Turner believed was not only special for the kids but may have created a few new Timbers fans as well.
“They’re eager to see these really world-class players compete and maybe a few of them will come out to see the match [Tuesday] night,” he said.
The Timbers Global Assists program is a partnership between the Timbers Stand Together community outreach platform,
One World Futbol
Mercy Corps Sport for Change
. It provides a ball for each assist contributed during the regular season by Timbers and Portland Thorns FC players to be donated to groups around the globe. The balls are specially constructed and nearly indestructible—they never go flat and are made for the most rugged environments in the world.
Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said the club was proud to be able to contribute and interact with a new community during an historic CONCACAF Champions League trip.
“It’s very humbling for myself and for all the players,” he said. “We’re here to try to win the game, of course, but it’s also a multi-purpose trip where we can give back a little bit as well.”
After speaking to a sizable local media contingent at the stadium about Tuesday’s match, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter happily headed balls with the kids and posed for pictures. For him, this type of outreach is a key part of the team’s culture.
“It was great for our guys and great for the club to be able to connect with the kids in Honduras,” he said. “They’re the future in this country, whether it’s in football or in other jobs in the community, and any chance we have to connect with people and interact with the community is a very important part of our mission in this club.”