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The most important thing I'll write from an amazing weekend in Montreal

19 March 6:02 de la tarde

The most important thing I'll write from an amazing weekend in Montreal

By Andrew Wiebe

You probably read that headline and thought... I bet he's talking about the record-breaking crowd that packed Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Or maybe what it all meant to Davy Arnaud, the Impact's captain and goalscorer.

You'd be wrong.

The moment that will stick with me the longest came on Friday evening. Not a soul was in the stands. The game itself was still almost 24 hours away. Chicago were winding down their training session, meandering to the benches as a contingent of 20 or so members of the Fire's Section 8 supporters group waited by the sideline to glad hand and shoot the breeze with the guys they were there to see play the next afternoon.

Waiting with them was a seven-year-old boy from Ottawa named Ethan Stroud. Wrapped tightly around his neck was a Fire scarf, but what really stood out was the intricate Chicago crest etched into the back of his head. While Ethan was busy talking to every Fire player who came in his general vicinity, soaking up the words and attention he recieved as he collected autographs on the back of the jersey that bore his last name and the No. 12, I spent a few minutes talking to his mother, Allison Darke.

She told me Ethan, who was born in Chicago, was adopted and that life hadn't always been this easy for the gregarious young man who rarely stopped smiling in the 10 minutes I watched him make what will surely be lifelong memories. He was born blue from lack of oxygen. He is paralyzed down part of his right arm. He hasn't let it slow him down.

He loves soccer, plays every chance he gets, five times a week much of the year. He plays on three teams. According to his mom, Ethan is the "first one in the van and the first one out of the van" when it comes time to head to practice or games.

"He doesn't have an 'I-can't-do-it button,'" she says.

His parents took him back to Chicago last July for his seventh birthday, an opportunity to visit the city where he was born. They didn't have time to catch a Fire game. That would come the next day among the 70 or so Section 8 supporters tucked in the far corner of the Big O's second deck.

At that moment, though, there was nothing more important to Ethan than what was going on around him. After Logan Pause, Dominic Oduro, Dan Gargan, Frank Klopas and the rest of the Chicago players and coaching staff made him feel welcome -- an understatement to say the least -- and signed his new prized possession, he did what any kid in their right mind would do. He ripped off his jacked and pulled the Fire's colors over his shoulders.

I walked away with the feeling that the next day's events would be special, no doubt, but nothing I did or saw that weekend could measure up to the pure, unadulterated joy Ethan got out of that experience.

Those 10 minutes reminded me what life (and soccer) should be all about. Optimism. Hope. Perseverance. Humanity. Too often, it's easy to forget that.

Then a moment like that comes along, and all it takes is a seven-year-old boy having the time of his life to deliver a reminder that what you're doing is just a drop in the bucket.