More than 40 current MLS players and former U.S. national teamers participated in “Soccer Night in Newtown” on Monday, offering residents of the town a much-needed diversion in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December.
Real Salt Lake defender and University of Connecticut alum Kwame Watson-Siriboe was one of the players at the event, where he took part in a Q+A panel discussion with U.S. legends Alexi Lalas and Mia Hamm, LA’s Landon Donovan, New York’s Ryan Meara and New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth.
Over 1,500 Newtown residents and members of the Newtown Youth Academy attended the event, which was spearheaded by Houston Dynamo President and Connecticut native Chris Canetti.
“The event was really nice,” Watson-Siriboe told RealSaltLake.com over the phone on Tuesday. “There was a huge turnout – I actually didn’t realize it was going to be so big. But it was really good to get there and have these kids come and interact with us. We were able to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces at the event. It was definitely a really big blessing to be able to do that.”
Watson-Siriboe – who said he was “a little intimidated” to be put on a panel with “some of the elite of the elite in U.S. soccer – was initially tipped off to the event by Seattle Sounders goalie Josh Ford, a teammate at UConn. He got himself involved shortly thereafter, arranging to fly out to Newtown for a day to take part in an event he won’t soon forget.
“Honestly, just the smiles on people’s faces are what I’ll remember the most,” he said. “To be even a small part of an event like this, to give those kids a little sense of normalcy – it was just a really cool thing.”