Great balls of fire, soccer mania is amongst us.
With the World Cup frenzy affecting us from ever angle and allegiances to Germany and Argentina being tested, I’m putting my money on Uruguay, a country that while not in the running, has delivered one of its most fervent soccer enthusiasts.
I am writing about a friend of mine named Oscar Amuz. Oscar is an ordinary guy, father and husband, enjoying his moment in the spotlight, not on ESPN screens, but rather in the eyes of a child.
In this case, in the eyes of a special needs child; in fact, many special needs children.
As a former soccer player himself, Oscar founded Hope for Autism, United for Soccer Foundation. Through ‘Autism Soccer’, Oscar reaches some 120 children who otherwise might not have access to a traditional sports program because of the requirements attributed to autism, Down syndrome and other childhood special needs.
Oscar sees soccer as a conduit to connection and connection as a path to healing. His concept of ‘all children simply want to play‘ helps develop coping skills, social skills and mainly allows the kids to have fun – the biggest kid in the bunch being Oscar himself.
The smiles of parents who had otherwise resigned themselves to never experiencing their child in this setting, is yet another benefit of this outstanding program. Oscar focuses on keeping discipline, adhering to schedules and and (no pun intended) achieving goals for each of his classes, but with children, any children, hiccups will happen and he must go with the flow. He has become the Pied Piper of soccer to a non-traditional team and a grateful, if albeit, hopeful crowd in the stands.
This quality is what makes Oscar Amuz the unsung hero that he is today. He is invested, unequivocally and without expectation of any reward, into this endeavor. He is there for the kids – to see their smiles, to see their young minds making connections with their arms and legs, enticing motor skills, developing coordination and as a by product, letting the kids be kids.
Oscar has helped foster this environment and ignite this spark through the use of a soccer ball, an unwavering tenacity and a genuine desire to reach these children. Whether or not the ball makes it to the goal line is irrelevant; in my eyes, his team has already scored ten times over and won the game.
Great balls of fire, indeed!