Earlier this month, the Haddonfield Soccer Club U11 and U12 United girls’ soccer teams gathered for a season-ending friendly exhibition and called it the “Giving Cup.”
Its focus was for the girls to bring non-perishable foods and have fun playing soccer while helping those less well off during the holidays.
“It all started back in the early fall, with a friendly match between us to see where we both stood, in comparison to each other, being a year apart. The U12 team beat us, and so, coming to the end of the season, with a lot more practice, we decided to have another competitive match and wanted to come together for another reason,” explained Sean Gleeson, coach of the U11 squad.
“I was part of a game a long time ago that had a similar benefit.”
With that experience in pocket and memory, Gleeson enlisted U12 girls coach Jeff Farrell and brought the charity match idea to the forefront. They also decided to have all the team members, parents and spectators bring food to the game and donate it to the Food Bank of South Jersey.
Appropriate given the circumstances, the match ended in a scoreless deadlock. However, just for fun, both teams decided the outcome on penalty kicks, with the U11 team outscoring their older counterparts.
“I’m not saying we were the better team that day. All the girls had a great time. It was a great day for people who need those additional resources and food,” Gleeson was quick to point out.
Farrell added he was surprised that two of the more competitive teams within the club displayed that same fire, essentially against their friends, that they usually display in matches against outside clubs.
“We played a preseason friendly and everyone had a great time; the girls had a lot of fun and they have that competitive spirit. You don’t expect to see that when it’s Haddonfield vs. Haddonfield, but you get 14 girls per team coming out and these girls are out there fighting hard to win. The neat part was, the fact that we had the girls go out and collect the food and then deliver it all. So the girls had a chance to play, be competitive but also give other people a leg up who need it – giving something back and playing for something other than themselves,” he said.
All told, the sides and their supporters collected almost 320 pounds of food and, more importantly, the girls all witnessed the spirit of giving and came out of it with a valuable life and learning experience.
“It felt good raising all of the cans and stuff and giving them to other people and playing against the older team. It was really fun to play better competition,” said Avery Sinnes, who plays midfield and offense on the U11 team.
Both Gleeson and Farrell were open to the idea of not only continuing the Giving Cup next year and beyond, but also including a greater cross-section of Haddonfield Soccer teams.
“Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling and do it next year. Maybe not the same two teams, but maybe find two teams every year that will carry on the tradition,” Farrell added.