In soccer match, Congress competes for charity

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress traded suits and ties for T-shirts and shorts at the inaugural Capital Soccer Classic, a charity event held Wednesday at Gallaudet University’s Hotchkiss Field.

The goal was to raise money for the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program that targets kids in urban areas.

Soccer for Success not only provides free after-school programs that get children moving, kids who take part get nutrition and healthy living tips. Soccer coaches serve as their mentors.

Wednesday’s event was emceed by WTOP’s Dave Johnson and included adult soccer games and a soccer clinic for kids, but the highlight was the Congressional Soccer Game.

Professional U.S. soccer greats including John Harkes, Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope and Claudio Reyna joined members of Congress on the pitch.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland served as coach of the yellow team, and Rep. Dave Reichert from Washington State coached the gray team.

“I’m a horrible soccer player,” Rep. Ben Lujan of New Mexico admitted.

“Nonetheless it’s a good cause and that’s why I’m out here.”

Before the match Van Hollen told WTOP what he planned to do.

“I’m going to give them some strategic pointers ahead of a little pep talk, and hopefully we’ll take the game,” he said.

During halftime, Van Hollen scored a penalty kick that counted toward the score of the game, but the match ended in a 6-6 tie.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Juergen Sommer, another former pro player, says the game is ideal for kids because all they need is a ball.

“If you’ve got a pair of tennis shoes, great. You don’t need cleats. You can just get out, get a group of kids and go play. Have fun.”