Barefoot Soccer tournament, 6.10.12
Photo by L.M. Parr

Timbers and Grassroot Soccer partner to help raise money to fight HIV in Africa

Portland Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan, Timber Joey,Timbers U-23s and the Portland Rain all showed their support for Grassroot Soccer, Inc. and MercyCorps at the Portland Barefoot 3 v. 3 Tournament Sunday afternoon.

Held at Concordia University in Northeast Portland, 110 three-player youth teams registered to play in a barefoot soccer tourney to benefit Grassroot Soccer, Inc., a nonprofit aimed at using the power of soccer to prevent and treat HIV in Africa.

WATCH: Barefoot Soccer Tournament

Event chair and HIV physician Gordon Johnson immediately recognized the love of soccer in Portland. “Whenever I travel, I always bring a soccer ball and end up playing pickup soccer--often barefoot in places like India, Asia and Africa,” he said. “Portland is such a soccer city, and also a city devoted to philanthropy. Tying the two together for an event like this just makes sense.”

The tourney raised over $10,000 through registration fees, t-shirt sales and raffles. One raffle offered winners the opportunity to play barefoot soccer at JELD-WEN Field during halftime at the July 3 match against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Also featured were five African bands, autograph sessions with Timber Joey and Alhassan, and a shoe drive named “Lose Your Shoes” to be donated to Ghana later in the summer.

“This isn’t just another fundraiser,” continued Johnson. “We try to make our fundraisers fun. We bring futsal to local schools and gyms, but this is by far our biggest event of the year.”

Also in attendance was the Portland Rain of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, who played a 5 v. 5 exhibition against Portland State University’s women’s soccer team. “This is such a great event for a great cause,” said Rain defender Ali Mosher. “This isn’t just about getting children involved in sports, but it’s spreading awareness and knowledge about a global problem - plus, playing barefoot was a fun twist.” The Portland Rain is a member of the adidas Timbers Alliance.

The Timbers U-23s also played a 5 v. 5 exhibition against Concordia University’s men’s soccer team. “Events like this that bring soccer and awareness to global issues are important,” said U-23s defender James Partee. “In Africa, soccer isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. I’m glad we can be here today to help everyone we can through soccer.”