Aug 24, 2013
Ohio State vs. #7 Notre Dame (exhibition)
Monday, August 26 7 p.m. (ET)
Alumni Stadium Notre Dame, Ind.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Monday's exhibition men's soccer match between Notre Dame and Ohio State will have an impact over 8,000 miles away. The journey will begin with A (Alumni Stadium) and end with Z (Zimbabwe).
The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish will conclude their preseason slate when they play host to the Buckeyes at 7 p.m. (ET). The match can be seen live and for free on WatchND.tv. No matter the final result Grassroot Soccer (GRS) will be the victor.
This marks the 10th straight season that Notre Dame has held a preseason match to benefit GRS, which is an international non-governmental organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire and mobilize communities against the spread of HIV. GRS has a special connection to the Notre Dame program as Dr. Tommy Clark, the eldest son of Irish head coach Bobby Clark, is the founder and CEO of the organization.
There is no admission for the game and donations to GRS will be accepted throughout the match. The Notre Dame men's soccer camp will match all donations dollar-for-dollar.
"We hope that we can raise some money for Grassroot Soccer, which is a very worthwhile cause," Bobby Clark said. "It raises awareness that HIV is still a huge killer in Africa and I hope people are aware of that. It's nice that we can use soccer to help. Grassroot Soccer uses soccer in Africa as the main medium to educate and it's great that we can use our sport here to help their cause.
"Tommy (Clark) will be at the game on Monday. He's going to be a part of it, which is really good."
A special twist this season is that the Fighting Irish will be donning "retro" jerseys for the match. The uniforms will be similar to those worn by the team in the 1980s and the gold color is quite similar to the one GRS uses for its official t-shirt. The jerseys will then be up for auction and Notre Dame soccer alumni and the current players' parents will have a chance to purchase them to help fund the team's trip to Zimbabwe that will take place next summer.
Previous foreign trips under Clark have sent the program to Scotland (2002), Brazil (2006) and Sweden/Denmark (2010). Those journeys have been focused on training, competing and soaking up the culture of another land. In addition to accomplishing those tasks, the Zimbabwe trip will be about helping those in the African country who are dealing with the brutal reality of HIV and AIDS.
Clark, who is entering his 13th season on the Notre Dame sidelines, is familiar with the areas that are getting hit hard by HIV. The Fighting Irish head coach was the Director of Coaching for the Bulawayo Highlanders in the Zimbabwean Super League during the 1983-84 season.
"Tommy was about 13 (years old) when I coached in Zimbabwe and after he graduated as an undergraduate from Dartmouth, he went back to Zimbabwe and many of the youngsters that were on his team had died from HIV and I think that made a big impact on him," Clark said. "When Tommy went back to medical school at Dartmouth he was asked to do a project to help the public at large and he conjured up this idea of how soccer could help educate young Africans with life skills. Grassroot Soccer grew out of that. Since it (GRS) has grown so much, he's not doing as much pediatrics any more, he's doing a lot of fundraising and a lot of work in sub-Saharan Africa."
GRS not only has an impact on the current Fighting Irish players, but it also remains with those who have graduated. GRS recently hosted an event in conjunction with a Colorado Rapids match and former Irish All-American Dillon Powers, a Rapids rookie, donated his game jersey so GRS could auction it off to raise money.
Tom Crotty, a team captain of the 1979 Irish squad, is the chairman of GRS and he also created the Crotty Challenge, which helps fund the program's foreign trips that take place every four years. The journeys provide lasting memories for the program and next summer's trip will have an impact beyond the lives of the coaches and student-athletes.
"We plan on traveling to Zimbabwe and teaming up with the Grassroot Soccer team in Bulawayo where we will play games but will also work in the townships putting out the message to young Africans," Clark said. "It will be part soccer, part service. I coached in Zimbabwe back in 1983 and took my family with me. It was a life-changing experience and I hope it will have a similar effect on our current Notre Dame team."
Helping those in need is a hallmark of the University of Notre Dame and the people associated with the school.
"It's exciting to be able to help this cause," junior midfielder Nick Besler said. "Our team does a lot of community service. Our captains set up service events and a bunch of guys always volunteer. We really enjoying being able to do things like that. Having the new jerseys is an exciting part of the Grassroot game this season."
While the Fighting Irish kits will be a tribute to the program's past, they will provide the present squad with a chance to do their part to help Grassroot Soccer protect future generations in Africa.
Go to grassrootsoccer.org for more information on GRS.
-- Sean Carroll