Roger Levesque is a Sounders FC legend, on and off the field.
The former forward, known for his clutch goals and iconic celebrations, transitioned into the Front Office after his playing days, serving as the Director of Community Outreach. While he was in that position, he led a mixture of Front Office staff, club supporters and other volunteers on a community service trip to Honduras before the Sounders faced C.D. Olimpia in the 2015-16 group stage of Concacaf Champions League.
With the Rave Green set to square off against Olimpia again on Thursday, SoundersFC.com caught up with Levesque to talk about his work in Honduras.
Q: What was the inspiration for this trip?
“It was driven by the Concacaf Champions League and international competition, and the opportunity to step outside of Seattle to leverage the game to make an impact. The trip to Honduras to face C.D. Olimpia happened to be our first opportunity to do that. We had a great partnership with the Seattle International Foundation and had been looking for opportunities to use the game of soccer, knowing it’s a global sport, to have an impact. Because we have a unique community around soccer in Seattle, and great supporter groups, knowing that [Emerald City Supporters] were traveling to those Champions League games, it was just an opportunity to bring all of those stakeholders together to do something cool.”
Q: What were those initial conversations with supporters like?
“It was positive right from the start. There was a big group of fans traveling to Olimpia, so we were trying to find a way to integrate and incorporate them into what we were doing on the ground. The other piece to this was a unique opportunity to leverage the larger fanbase to raise money. Through an online platform, we ended up raising $7,500 that went towards refurbishing a small soccer field at a youth center in Tegucigalpa.”
Q: What programs did you partner with to build the new soccer pitch at the youth center?
“There was a youth center in a neighborhood called Estados Unidos, and the USAID and the Youth Alliance Program were leveraging these youth centers in areas that have traditionally been plagued by gang violence to provide recreation, education and other activities for kids. We took a trip out there with fans. And then with those kids, we held a big soccer clinic in the Estadio Nacional prior to the game. That was the day of the game, and Brian Schmetzer and Tommy Dutra both came out to the field that morning and helped run a soccer clinic. Both then said a few words to the kids after the clinic, and it was pretty cool.”
Q: What does it say about the culture of the club that coaches were willing to attend this event on game day in collaboration with supporters to help kids outside the Seattle community?
“I think it’s a microcosm of the unique relationship we have here in Seattle around the Sounders organization. People really care about not just the sport and what happens on the field, but also truly appreciate the power of the game to have a positive impact off the field as well.”
Q: What were your favorite memories from that trip?
“At the clinic, it was Brian Schmetzer playing soccer tennis with some of the kids. It was so fun to watch. Everybody was so happy. Huge smiles not just on Brian’s face, but on the kids’ faces, too. That was great. Having a chance to listen to Tommy and Brian talk about their experiences in the game. And seeing the kids and how captivated they were, and how excited they were to be part of it. At the youth center, seeing before and after pictures of the space the kids were playing on – it was concrete and didn’t have goals – and then seeing the new field and stepping on it to play small-sided games.”
Q: When you saw the club had been drawn against Olimpia again this year, did it just bring back all of those memories from your trip?
“Absolutely. I went through all the old photos and checked to see if there were any new stories on it. I saw that in 2016, there were military cadets out playing soccer on the field we had helped build. That was pretty cool. I think the youth center led into some broader programs and services around gang violence, which is obviously an ongoing battle, but to know that we had a small piece in potentially changing kids’ lives is very rewarding.”
Q: During your time with the club, was the trip to Honduras one of the better experiences you’ve had in terms of making a positive impact?
“I think so. We kind of just scratched the surface. We had spent so much time thinking about how we could help in our own community, and it was great to think of outside that, engaging fans to help the Sounders community make an impact.”