Sounders and Fans Pay Tribute To Zakuani
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
"Experienced the most emotional 1 minute of my life today," Zakuani tweeted after the match.
The Sounders FC has seen a lot of incredible moments from their home crowd at Qwest Field.
Saturday night took that to an all-new level.
When the clock showed 11:00, the 36,287 in attendance all stood and raised “11” placards to honor Steve Zakuani, who suffered a horrendous fracture of his right tibia and fibula on a tackle in Seattle’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids a week earlier.
To add volume to the sea of white cards around the stadium, they also chanted the name of Steve Zakuani for the entire minute.
“It was unbelievable,” said Seattle midfielder Servando Carrasco, who was on the Sounders bench during the tribute. “It goes to show how much the city of Seattle appreciates what Steve Zakuani has done in these last couple of years. We all wish him a speedy recovery and we know that he’s going to come back stronger than ever.”
Head coach Sigi Schmid opened his post-game press conference with some words about Zakuani and forward O’Brian White, who underwent surgery to treat a blood clot in his leg during the week. Both Zakuani and White watched the game from a local hospital.
“I want to say to Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White that we miss you. We want you guys back with us as soon as possible,” Schmid said before discussing anything about what happened on the field. “The effort the guys put out there tonight was a tribute to you.”
During the one minute when the crowd chanted with raised cards, the players one the field showed that steely focus, swarming the field and causing havoc for the visiting Toronto FC while holding a 1-0 lead. With that determination, they hardly noticed just what was going on around them - in part a testament to the constant blast of support coming from the home crowd at Qwest Field.
However, Schmid allowed himself a moment to take in the atmosphere.
“I sort of got myself caught looking around and almost forgetting about the game a little bit,” he said. “I’ve been texting Steve back and forth and the one thing he kept reiterating is he didn’t want the focus to be on him, he wanted it to be on the team. That’s the kind of guy he is. I was thinking ‘Steve, don’t be angry right now.’ Because we are focused on this game and on the win.”
The Sounders finished off the night with a 3-0 victory and the tributes to Zakuani weren’t limited to those moments on the field. Signs peppered the stands to show support and one fan raised an oversized foam “Z” that was later paraded around the field by defender James Riley.
In addition, the club had oversized greeting cards for fans to sign before kickoff that will be delivered to Zakuani. A framed photo also made the rounds, with fans signing that as well. Also, the female contingent of Emerald City Supporters - Royal Femmes - collected donations for Zakuani’s non-profit organization, Kingdom Hope. After the match, they announced that they collected over $1,400 for the organization.
The match, Schmid said, provided perspective for the Sounders players and coaches after an emotional week.
“We’ve got a pretty good job,” Schmid said. “We’re able to get out there and play every day. And you’ve got to appreciate every day because you don’t know when that day’s going to come when you can’t play. You hate missing games and I think everybody went out there and said, ‘Let’s enjoy ourselves today’.”