essentially a one-man football association. He paid player's salaries from his own pocket, purchased uniforms and equipment, ensuring that the country would have an escape from the ravages of the Civil War that gripped the nation.
And all the while, he was also doing tremendous work outside of the national team, traveling from his home in New York to the schools of Liberia, oblivious to the dangers he faced in the war-torn country. He spoke to countless young Liberian women, imploring them to play soccer instead of succumbing to the social pressures that exposed them to a double-whammy of AIDS and youth pregnancy. Although he is one of the most recognized names in world soccer, both for his accomplishments on the field and off, his message to the Black-and-Red was one of humility. During his informal speech, he acknowledged that some of the best lessons he learned playing alongside all of the great players of his day were passed to him as a result of his humble work ethic.
Ben Olsen, named U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year for 2003, was particularly struck by the visit.
"It's just amazing, the work he's done [in Liberia]," said Olsen. "It's an honor to meet someone like him. He is one of the best players to ever play the game. And even with all that, for him to give so much back to his homeland, it's a great thing."
License to Cheer
Fans of the Black-and-Red now have another way to show their support for the Eastern Conference leaders. The Virginia Assembly recently approved the issuance of a D.C. United license plate. Fans can pick up one of 350 limited edition plates through the newly redesigned dcunited.com. Current season ticket holders and supporters group members will have first crack at the limited edition plates, with registration opening to the general public on July 17. License plates will be limited to current Virginia residents and issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. A fee of $10 will reserve one of the license plates, and an additional $10 will allow for personalization.
Claudio Ciccia has completed his trial with the team, with United deciding not to offer him a contract. Nana Kuffour remains the sole trialist with the team, continuing to work with the Black-and-Red on a daily basis.