Like most people around the country, when Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe heard the news about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., he felt helpless.
That's why Rolfe is joining other prominent soccer players in Monday's Soccer Night in Newtown, a charity event for the Connecticut town still dealing with the aftermath of last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Organized by Houston Dynamo President and Connecticut native Chris Canetti, the event will give Newtown residents and members of the Newtown Youth Soccer Club a chance to meet and play with MLS and U.S. national team players. Rolfe will be joined by former Fire player Eric Wynalda as well as U.S. National Team stars such as Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones and Mia Hamm.
RedEye spoke with Rolfe about going to Newtown and the role sports can play in a community after a tragedy.
How did you find out about the Newtown incident?
I'd seen the headline on the internet--I don't tend to follow the news very much, but it came up on my iPad. I have a really good friend who I played in Denmark with who is from Newtown and his mom used to teach at Sandy Hook Elementary, so as soon as I saw the headline I sent my buddy a text message. He updated me and he was my source of information that day.
So it hit a bit closer to home for you?
Yeah, I knew Mark's mom was at the elementary school--fortunately she retired a few years ago--but getting that firsthand perspective from my friend and his mom made it a little more real for me.
Why did you decide to participate in this charity event?
I think I can speak with the majority on this and say that when it happened, I felt helpless. It affected all of us, and I know I wanted to do something about it but didn't necessarily know what to do. When I heard there was an opportunity to do go there and do something firsthand, I thought it'd be a great idea to go and represent the Chicago Fire and the city of Chicago.
Is there something you'd specifically like to do in Newtown while you're there?
Honestly, I think as long as we're able to distract the kids from everything going on and to see them having fun and laughing, that's going to be all that we ask for. I can't imagine what those kids are going through and the courage they have in going back to school and getting through things. We've done our job if we can get the kids to smile and take their minds off it.
Is there a message you'd like to bring to those kids or the people of Newtown?
No, I think they'll be more inspiring to me than I would be to them. I honestly can't wrap my head around what they're going through and the difficulties they're facing.
What kind of role can sports play in a community that'd been hit by tragedy?
Sports can bring communities together. To work together and form a team in friendly competition is a good thing. Sports can take your mind off the daily struggles of life and give you a time to break away from those realities and enjoy yourself.
There have been disputes in the past from different communities about when is the right time for sports to be played again after something like this. Do you have thoughts about that?
I think it's a very personal decision about the grieving time and how you cope with situations. I think the right move is to provide an outlet for people that need it. I can't speak for the community, but I can imagine that they're really just trying to move past it. I'm sure it's been heavy on them for like three weeks now. I hope with us coming down that it doesn't bring it back up. Our focus is to not even bring it up and just be a positive light for them.
There's been a lot of talk about different ways to prevent mass shootings like this from happening again. Is that something you've thought about?
That's not for me to decide. I'm honestly not a part of that discussion.
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