Unified by soccer: Special Olympics inaugural match a success on every facet

It was only thirty minutes, but to these young athletes it was a moment that will last a lifetime.

In the first ever “Unified Match,” a Special Olympics soccer match was held between Special Olympics (Pa.) and a collective that represented Special Olympics (D.C.) following the Sept. 27 match between the Union and bitter rival D.C. United.

Both Special Olympics teams also doubly represented their respective club teams, so when the two sides took to the field at RFK Stadium, it was the first game in what could soon become a rivalry itself.

In this one, it was the Union that celebrated a 2-1 comeback victory over United in a match that is the first of what has the makings of becoming an annual classic. In fact, plans are already in place to have PPL Park as the host turf for the second installment next season.

“This was beyond anything that I can imagine for these kids,” said Nastassja Falterbauer, a special education teacher at Martin Luther King High School, who acted as head coach. “They are so excited, I am beyond proud of them and so excited that their hard work paid off and they are going home as winners. For the Union and D.C. United to give these kids a chance to experience this I know is something they’ll talk about for years.”

Falterbauer’s sentiments were echoed by Special Olympics (Pa.) athlete Herbie Rider, who scored the game winner to ensure the Union would seize the inaugural victory.

“It feels good, really great, Rider said. “I am happy that we did this…I will remember this moment every day. This was the best.”

Just another one of the many ways the Philadelphia Union Foundation strives to enrich its surrounding community and grow its footprint in the Greater Philadelphia region.

“The relationship that has been developed these past six months between MLS Works, Special Olympics (D.C.), Special Olympics (Pa.), D.C. United and Philadelphia Union has truly been a lesson in camaraderie and single mindedness of purpose,” Rick Jacobs, executive director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, said.

For more information about Special Olympics Pennsylvania, visit: http://www.specialolympicspa.org/

And for information on how you can help support the Philadelphia Union Foundation, visit: philadelphiaunion.com/foundation

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