PORTLAND, Ore. – This past Labor Day, a group of over 150 kids were able to finish off their summer with a special, new soccer experience at Providence Park. Special, in part, because it was led by two MLS Cup-winning Portland Timbers legends in Diego Valeri and Diego Chara.
Dubbed “Dos Diegos Soccer Academy,” Valeri and Chara took some time from their busy MLS 2018 season to work with Portland kids on the pitch at the stadium. When asked about the academy after their own training session later in the week as the team prepared to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (7:30pm PT, FOX 12 PLUS), the pair of Diegos were buzzing from the fun afternoon.
“We loved it, I think the kids loved it and, obviously, it’s all about that, right?” said Valeri. “That connection with the community, that love I have with Diego and the club and the kids in the community was great.”
The MLS veterans led the young soccer players through passing and shooting drills, small games and the kids were also able to learn from Valeri and Chara about their time in soccer and in life.
“We tried to share some experiences, moments, and some teachings [from our careers],” said Valeri. “Obviously, we had some fun and I think for them, to be with a professional player that they probably admire, to kick some balls, play some 1-2 and play some 5v2…it was nice.”
The idea for the event came about through conversations between the two players and the club. For Chara, he was also inspired via experiences from his own childhood and wanting to find a way to share and give back.
“It’s very important because when I was a child, I [wanted] to have the same opportunity that they have,” he said. “For me, it’s great to work with children.”
Both players are keen to do another one at some point down the line. And while it made for a very busy day with a large group of kids happily running about the same field that they themselves play on week-in and week-out, when asked about what was their favorite part of the academy, Chara was quick to answer.
“I think [it was seeing] the happiness of the kids,” he said, with his trademark smile. “That’s great for me to be with the kids answering questions and doing something special on the field. For me, that was great.”