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Tournament raises funds for Africa

Laura Myers | Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No shoes? No problem.

This weekend Notre Dame will become the latest school to host Lose the Shoes, a 3-on-3 barefoot soccer tournament to benefit Grassroot Soccer.

The tournament – organized by the Irish men’s soccer coach Bobby Clark and MBA student Luke Scullion – will feature 32 teams of three players each. The teams will play soccer Saturday afternoon on South Quad, and the championship will be played Sunday during halftime of Notre Dame’s game against Cincinnati.

“We want to get it started this year, and hopefully do it every year,” Scullion said. “Like Bookstore Basketball, we want to make it part of Notre Dame tradition.”

Each participant must donate at least $10, though more donations are welcome.

Prizes will be awarded to the winning team as well as to the team that raises the most money and to the team that scores the most points in a single game. Scullion said the prizes are not final but may include basketball tickets and Grassroots gear.

Scullion said other fundraisers will be held throughout the afternoon, including a heading tournament and a shoot-out in which students go against a goalie.

Grassroot is an organization that raises AIDS awareness in Africa through children’s soccer programs. Founded in 2002 by Tommy Clark, son of Bobby Clark, the program has already spread to 14 countries in Africa and two in Latin America.

Tommy Clark said he felt the need to start the organization after playing professional soccer in Africa and seeing the effect AIDS had on the community.

“People I was playing with and teaching with ended up dying with AIDS,” he said. “I wanted to do something about it.”

Scullion, who played semi-pro soccer in England before a broken leg cut his career short, spent his summer interning with Grassroot in Africa.

“We went out to the villages, worked with the kids, held tournaments,” he said. “I spoke with some of the coaches, who said if they didn’t have these tournaments the kids would be out on the streets, and we wouldn’t know what they were up to.”

Scullion said the tournaments also served as creative ways to teach kids about AIDS while playing soccer. For example, children would have to answer a question about the disease before shooting a goal.

“It gave kids someone to talk to,” Scullion said. “Over there there’s a bit of a stigma, they just try to hush it up, sweep it under the rug. This opens up the lines of communication.”

Grassroot also provides AIDS screening for the children and its partners then provide counseling and other services to those who test positive.

Lose the Shoes was started in 2006 by Zak Kaufman, then a student at Dartmouth, as a way to spread awareness about Grassroot to colleges and high schools. It has already held tournaments in 80 schools and has raised over $150,000.

“All I did was give a little talk at Dartmouth and Zak Kaufman was one of the young people in the crowd who wanted to do something,” Tommy Clark said. “His idea was to engage people who like playing soccer. It was a way to gather people.”

An e-mail will be sent to students today with instructions on how to sign up; spots are limited because of the small number of teams.

“Maybe next year everyone will be talking about it and want to get involved, so we could have more teams,” Scullion said.