Seven players from Grand Bahama will help make up The Bahamas’ Special Olympics soccer team, scheduled to compete in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games June 3-12. Thanks to a donation from Playtime Sports, these players will do so with brand-new soccer boots.
“The stylish, black Adidas Predator soccer shoes with rubber cleats are not only top of the line, but revolutionary,” said Mark Hardy, Special Olympics Soccer national team coach.
“Adidas introduced the boots several years ago. They revolutionized soccer footwear. The boots, which have indentations along the outside from toe point to mid-foot, help spin the ball when the athlete correctly positions it on the dots. The indentations create more swerve on the ball for better shooting,” he explained.
Nine Grand Bahamian athletes will join the 23-member national team traveling to the Games in Orlando, FL.
The players include Natalia Demeritte, 12; Keino Curry, 15; goalkeeper Levar Laing, 15; Justin Miller, 16; unified partner Jaren Curry, 17; Orien Clough, 19; Dennis Maycock, 19; Dwayne Romer, 20 and Xavier Rolle, 20.
Hardy, who was elated with the generous donation, disclosed that the athletes usually play and practice in their regular tennis shoes.
“One of the things we struggle with is having soccer boots and shin guards for the players. In most cases, we have been able to get hand-me-downs and secondhand boots for the players from clubs I am involved with,” he said.
To have the players properly outfitted for the upcoming competition, Hardy reached out to the management of Freeport’s Playtime Sports.
Ghassan Haddad, store manager, agreed to assist the young athletes and the new soccer shoes were ordered and delivered.
“Three years ago, we did the same thing for the special team when they traveled to Abu Dhabi and played soccer. We are here to help whenever we can,” said Haddad.
Unable to meet in person for training sessions because of the pandemic, each player was given a soccer ball to practice with at home with instructions from their coaches.
“The players have been working hard. They are excited about getting these soccer boots and I am grateful to Playtime for this donation,” Hardy said.
“This is something the boys and girls need to make them look the part of a team. Like we often say … if you look the part, if you look good, that helps with the playing.”
Every three years, the athletes compete in the Special Olympics World Games, which are being held in Berlin, Germany, next year.
In 2019, The Bahamas’ Special Olympics soccer team won the bronze medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
However, with the World Games not taking place until 2023, Special Olympics Bahamas embraced the invitation from Special Olympics North America (SONA) to compete in the Special Olympics USA Games.
This is the first time countries outside of the USA have been invited to participate at the Special Olympics USA Games.
Over 3,800 athletes from the USA, Canada and the Caribbean will be competing in 19 sporting disciplines, including soccer, bocce, athletics, swimming, and bowling.
“So, our athletes will compete in soccer, bocce, and athletics. We had a swimmer from Abaco, but because that island is still recovering, he decided not to compete for personal reasons.
“For soccer, most of the players are from Grand Bahama. We have one bocce player, and our unified partner (player) is from a private school. The unified partner is a regular athlete that helps the special athlete on the field,” explained Cheryl Hurst, area coordinator for the Grand Bahama Special Olympics Chapter.
Walt Disney World is hosting the games this year, with much of the competition being held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
“Our athletes are over the moon with excitement at having the chance to compete after being through a storm and the pandemic,” Hurst said. “We are hoping to compete for more than just the bronze at the USA Games. We are looking to bring back the gold.”
The Special Olympics USA Games opening ceremony is June 5 and will be broadcast between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on most ABC stations.