Steve Nash Soccer Game Again a Success
By Jeff Lenchiner, editor of InsideHoops.com
Special to Suns.com
Posted: June 25, 2009
Special to Suns.com
Posted: June 25, 2009
Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash once again brought New York's coolest soccer event to an intimate setting in the heart of downtown Manhattan.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park again played host to the second annual "Showdown in Chinatown," an 8-on-8 soccer match benefitting charities run by Nash and former U.S. soccer national team captain Claudio Reyna. The event is free to the public.
As was the case last year, the game featured a mix of professional soccer and basketball players.
Though hard rain was falling prior to the event, the weather cleared up just in time. "It's amazing how you turned out in unfortunate weather... just want to thank you guys for coming, and I want you to thank all these players for taking time out of their holiday and break to put on a show for you guys," said Nash via loudspeakers to everyone in attendance before the game.
It is remarkable that Nash continues to hold the event in a tiny park. "The goal of this is to do something where the people can reach out and touch and see their heroes, and create an atmosphere that's special, not like any other charitable event," said Nash.
Surrounded by a chain-link fence, the park had just one small seating area behind a goalpost that holds a few hundred fans. On the field's other three sides, a few rows of fans can look through the fence for a partial view of the action. Although the visibility doesn't compare to what they'd get at a regular game, fans are still closer to their soccer heroes than they could ever hope otherwise.
Fans can literally run up, touch, shake hands and get autographs and photos with their soccer heroes. And that's exactly what happened before and after the game and briefly during halftime. As reporters were conducting interviews with players, questions and answers often took a back seat as stars gave attention to thrilled children with giant smiles on their faces, parents standing nearby. And in many cases, the reverse, as soccer-loving parents rushing past their children to greet their heroes.
The match began with Tony Parker, who on an NBA basketball court is small but in this case was a power forward or center-sized player relative to the others, scored the game's first goal. He's good at soccer and looked comfortable on the field.
As is always the case in the Big Apple, fans were vocal from start to fnish. Mainly in the direction of Chris Bosh, who was by far the most out-of-place athlete on the field. Having barely ever played soccer, the lanky Raptor was a sight to behold, struggling to control the ball and quickly learning his best chance for success was to stay as still as possible when receiving a pass and then kicking it away.
“Come to New York, Bosh” yelled a Knicks fan early in the first half. "No, stay in Toronto!" shouted another.
In one sequence, Bosh attempted a header, which although not coming close was appreciated by fans. Motion carried Bosh into the goal, and he actually had to duck to avoid bumping his head on the post.
As is well-known by now, Nash loves soccer and is terrific at it. He had a first-half hat trick and played with enthusiasm and heart. Nash also scored on the game's only penalty kick.
Grant Hill, who was relatively comfortable on the field if his large size is taken into consideration, is also a good player and enjoyed the action. When he scored, an ecstatic Nash flew into his arms. "I look up to Nash," said Hill before the game." WWhat I respect and admire is not just his talent, but what he does off the floor. Family man, helping the environment, giving back to the community."
Bosh was the game's carnival act -- in a good way. He did a great job filling in for Los Angeles Clippers guard Baron Davis, who in last year's game showed inexperience but had great fun in the process.
"I'm a soccer fan. I'm not a soccer player," said Bosh before the action. I think it's really cool being here. It's a unique event."
Bosh also said that Nash told him who was terrible last year, and told him not to be as terrible. Easier said than done.
As for the soccer stars, the game's main showman was Edgar Davids, who showed incredible ball control as he unleashed sequences of flashy, amazing trick dribbles which entertained fans but also annoyed a few soccer purists.
World famous superstar Thierry Henry, who put on quite a show in last year's event, was hurt, sat out the first half but entered the game in the second. The black sneakers he wore were ill-suited for soccer, suggesting that he probably wasn't planning to play at all.
Javier Zanetti, Salomon Kalou, Ryan Babel, Mathieu Flamini, Ivan Cordoba and Adrian Mutu played, plus Steve's brother Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps, Marc Stein of ESPN, and basketball analyst Simone Sandri.
The game featured so many goals, no one really bothered to keep score. Fans and media members alike lost count and were OK with that. None of the players I spoke to after the game had any idea of the final tally. Unofficially -- and I cannot stress enough how unofficial this is -- Renya's team beat Nash's team 8-5. Though, Stein wrote on Twitter that the Nash penalty kick goal was revoked after the game, so it's possible the final score was 7-5 Team Renya. The official confirmation may never come.
But the day isn't about winning or losing on the field. It's about having fun, treating fans to something special, and promoting great charitable causes that help make people's lives better in multiple ways.
Initially expected to play but not in attendance were former Sun Raja Bell, now with the Charlotte Bobcats, and Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks.
UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, who is expected to be selected high in Thursday night's 2009 NBA Draft, was spotted in the park long after the game began.
"I missed a lot, but it was still fun," said a happy Hill after the game. "It was good to come out here with all these great players. I just tried to get out of the way and not mess things up."
NOTE: No roster sheets were given to the media, and players were not actually announced to the fans, but ESPN analyst Marc Stein, who was lucky enough to play as a deep bench reserve for the second year in a row, wrote that the exact rosters were: Team Reyna (blue): Claudio Reyna, Javier Zanetti, Ivan Cordoba, Adrian Mutu, Salomon Kalou, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Marc Stein (ESPN) and Mike Quarino in goal. Team Nash (white): Steve Nash, Martin Nash, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Ryan Babel, Edgar Davids, Grant Hill and Francesco Santoro in goal.