Three weeks after a devastating mass shooting at a synagogue in the heart of the local Jewish community, the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds helped to bring healing to a city in need. And they did it the only way they knew how: with soccer.
Hundreds of soccer players and dozens of seven-a-side teams came together to play the beautiful game on Sunday at the Hounds’ own Highmark Stadium for the beautiful purpose of raising money to help support communities affected by the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue. Over $20,000 was raised by the event, to be distributed to the Pittsburgh Jewish Federation and the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety. Parking proceeds, t-shirt sales, raffle proceeds and the funds raised by a silent auction were all donated, thanks to ABM Parking Services, Sheraton hotels, the Riverhounds, the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. MLS teams like LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls and USL teams including Reno 1868 FC and Toronto FC II also contributed raffle items to help the cause.
At the event, entitled ‘Peace on the Pitch’, players of all ages from tiny 7 year-olds to lumbering adults took to the turf at Highmark in 15-minute spurts to spin, meg, and bend the ball on 65-yard fields. The weather cooperated perfectly, the Hounds staff organized the event flawlessly, and everyone had a great time for an even greater cause. The day culminated with members of Riverhounds supporters group ‘Steel Army’ playing against the creators of their podcast crew, ‘Mongoals’ and ‘Wo-Mongols.’ (Full disclosure – this reporter added an assist for the victorious podcast heroes.)
Not only was the event fun and for a great cause, but it was also a great opportunity for teams to get a chance to show off their skills and keep up their fitness just a few weeks after the close of the Fall season for high schools and clubs here in Western Pennsylvania. There was the added excitement for many local footballers of getting to play a match on a professional soccer field, which for many was certainly their first time playing in such an esteemed ground. The event was such a resounding success that more than a few attendees were heard to suggest to Hounds staff that they hold an event like this – a charity 7v7 tourney for a local cause – each year.
The emotional trauma from the shooting on October 27th will never fully be healed – there will be grief and fear and pain for folks in Pittsburgh and in Jewish communities around the US for many years to come. What was lost on that day can never truly be regained, both in terms of those we lost and the innocence and sense of security that departed from us that day. But for Pittsburgh, for Squirrel Hill, and for soccer fans, a big part of healing comes from a return to our creature comforts, our favorite things, and our normal routines.
And Sunday, soccer did just that. It healed us, if only for a little while.