Kobe Bryant tries to keep his distance from The Washington Post's Mike Wise, number 44. Photograph by Kyle Gustafson
On Sunday morning, a raucous crowd filled Kastles Stadium for Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra’s Fourth Annual Celebrity Soccer Challenge. The match, a benefit for the Mia Hamm Foundation and the Children’s National Medical Center pitted Hamm’s team, FC Mia, against Garciaparra’s Nomar United, with both team’s rosters filled with national athletes and local celebrities: US Women’s National Soccer team members Alex Morgan, Ali Kreiger, Heather O’Reilly, and Tobin Heath; NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Jeff Green; current and former Redskins Charles Mann, D’Angelo Hall, and Heath Schuler; Capitals defensemen John Carlson; former DC United standout Eddie Pope; as well as local media anchors Steve Buckhantz, Dan Hellie, Ivan Carter, and Britt McHenry.
The back-and-forth seven-on-seven match provided plenty of entertainment, but mostly proved that non-soccer athletes struggle with the sport and media members should probably stay on the sidelines. The Washington Post’s Mike Wise, in particular, looked like a fish out of water. Though he scored a goal early in the match, he flailed when Bryant faked him off of his feet. The ladies from the Women’s World Cup team, along with Bryant, were the day’s big draws, and Morgan and O’Reilly took turns scoring in spectacular fashion. Despite the charity match’s easy-does-it vibe, Pope and former US Men’s National Soccer Team member John Harkes both played with full intensity. Harkes spent much of his time on the pitch complaining about missed calls and working referee (and former DC United head coach) Thomas Rongen. Harkes had the last laugh, however, scoring the golden goal in extra time to give FC Mia the victory, 13-12.The match was more than fun and games though. The match served to raise awareness for bone marrow donations and asking those in attendance to become part of the national donor’s database. Hamm lost her adopted brother to a rare blood disease in the late ’90s and started her foundation as a way to give back. At halftime, a moving scene unfolded when Hamm introduced three families to their matched donors for the first time. Actor Donald Logue also addressed the crowd, telling his tale of becoming a donor and saving the life of someone in the final stages of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.