2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals- M&T Bank Stadium

With over 70,000 fans (mostly donned in El Salvador and Honduras blue) making their way into M&T Bank Stadium on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, the hanging rain clouds looking to damper the two upcoming soccer matches didn’t stand a chance. For the unsuspecting soccer fan, the heavily favored United States Men’s National Team looked like they were playing a road game, with a few specs of red jerseys being seen in the crowd.  It was obvious that El Salvador and Honduras were the home favorites over the United States and Costa Rica.

The United States ultimately won their contest, with Honduras winning the later match.

The grass field at M&T Bank Stadium looked beautiful. The Ravens Grounds crew had been cultivating and watering the field for almost a week prior to the match to make sure that the field was in prime condition for the Gold Cup.  Never mind the field or game though- I think the most exciting experience to me was before the game! On my way into the stadium I saw thousands of fans wearing the jerseys of their team, waving the flag of their nation, chanting countless pre-game war songs and enjoying pre-game rituals that many of us enjoy before attending a game. The atmosphere was electric and the smell of food being grilled were something to experience in itself.

Baltimore and M&T Bank Stadium were one of six new venues chosen to host the CONCACAF Gold Cup this year and its staff and fans did not disappoint. Not only did Baltimore prove to be an excellent location for the Gold Cup Quarterfinals, but the atmosphere surrounding M&T Bank Stadium made the fan experience one to remember.

Ethiopians gather in Maryland for weeklong soccer celebration

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Ethiopians traveled from around the country

If you have attended a football or basketball game at the University of Maryland, then you’re probably familiar with Testudo dancing down the sidelines and Terrapins fans wearing red or gold chanting their victory song. While that sight of the local Maryland community is normal during the fall and winter months, I saw tens of thousands of Ethiopians gather in College Park last week for the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America’s (ESFNA) MARYLAND 2013: 30th Annual Soccer Tournament and Cultural Festival.

Throughout the entire week, I met Ethiopians from around the country who made the journey to College Park for the annual event, including tourists from California. I was even more surprised to find Ethiopians traveling south of the border from Ontario, Canada.

“We drove 18 hours from Minnesota to come here. We went to the one in Dallas last year and it was enjoyable. We’re really excited for [Ethiopian Day] later,” said Dawit Melaku, 29 year old Ethiopian from Minnesota.

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Hundreds of Ethiopian vendors  on-site at Byrd Stadium

ESFNA has brought this event to Maryland in years past, and other highly populated Ethiopian metropolitan areas around the country, including Los Angeles and Atlanta. As a fellow resident of the highest Ethiopian populated state, I was able to see why the ESFNA decided to return to Maryland to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Throughout the week, spectators took the stands in the lower bowl and watched Ethiopian soccer clubs compete against each other on the FieldTurf Surface, which was recently installed last year at Byrd Stadium.

Aside from the the fast-paced action on the field, the entire main concourse was packed with hundreds of vendors for Ethiopians to drive business. Ranging from non-profit organizations booths, to clothing concessions, to food stands, the unique Ethiopian culture, cuisine, and environment was certainly live.

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A Proclamation from Prince George’s County Executive, Rushern L. Baker, III

As the workdays ended and turned into the late afternoons and early evenings, the festival’s attendance gradually increased with families and friends arriving. The concourse suddenly became very busy and felt as if I was walking through a densely, crowded Little Ethiopia. Even for non-Ethiopians, it was a positive, welcoming environment to be around.
In honor of Ethiopian Day, Montgomery County Executive, Isiah Leggett, and Prince George’s County Executive, Rushern L. Baker III, and Deputy Secretary of State, Rajan Natarajan, spoke  and praised the largest Ethiopian populated-area in the country.

“I’m delighted to serve as the co-chair of this 30th Anniversary. To be with so many friends and so many people who enjoy sports, but enjoy the culture, the religion, and all the wonderful things that Ethiopia has to offer to all of the world,” said Leggett.

It was great to see the Ethiopian population from across the country (and Canada) unite here in Maryland to celebrate their culture and heritage through sport. After researching and attending this event, I am now more interested in discovering how more nationalities in the US have cultural celebrations intertwined with sport on a nation level like the ESFNA.

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Tens of thousands of Ethiopians packed the stands on Ethiopian Day
Credit: EthioTube

USA Gymnastics Acro competition astounds

This past weekend I had the opportunity to experience the 2013 USAG Acrobatics Gymnastics Region 7 Competition at 1st Class Gymnastics. Competitors from New England to Virginia converged on the facility, Anne Arundel County and State of Maryland for two days of competition. On the line for these athletes and their teams: a chance to qualify for Nationals at the end of July in Louisville, KY.

I was absolute amazed by the skills these competitors, whose ages ranged from 8-18; the discipline and concentration needed to perform these acrobatic feats was remarkable. The event incorporated three sessions and 21 total rotations where the athletes and their teams performed in the disciplines of dynamics, balance and combined disciplines. I witness amazing tumbling, great choreographing, extreme trust and tremendous athletic skills as these athletes performed.

As it is said, a picture can say a thousand words. The pictures shared here only capture a small amount of what these athletes’ capabilities truly are.

I want to congratulate the athletes their performance as my family was truly engaged in their feats and abilities on the floor however I would be remised if I didn’t give a shout out to the team of Juli Eicher, Amy Grear, Sarah Thomas, Emily Ruppert, Kevin Grear, Jackye Herzfeld, Lewyn Garret and the judges for a job well done!