Soccer Kicks Soar to New Heights

Soccer Tournament Scheduled in Iraq, Getting a Kick from Local Teen's Soccer Love

Bill and Shalini Madaras have hung a similar sign countless times in front of the Wilton American Legion:  "Kick for Nick.”

"We didn't think much about it in the beginning,” said Nick’s father, Bill Madaras.

Nick Madaras loved soccer.  He played, coached and refereed.   As a soldier fighting in Iraq, it was soccer that he most wanted to bring to the children there.

"He knew the only way he could communicate was through that soccer ball and unfortunately he didn't get the chance to put that ball into a child's hand," said his mother, Shalini.

In 2006, Nick was killed in combat.  He was just 19.

Since then, the "Kick for Nick" organization has taken on a life of its own.  It sends soccer balls to children in Iraq, with each ball bearing  the name private first class Nick Madaras.  The name serves as a reminder of a young man who gave his life for peace.

"One of my best days in Iraq so far was the first day I took some Kick for Nick balls out on patrol,” said Lt. Col. Michael Shinners.  He is the deputy commander of the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division and has handed out countless soccer balls to kids in Iraq.

“We bring them in and show them the Nick Madaras ball and explain what happened to him and what his father was now doing for these Iraqi children.  As soon as soon as I started talking about Nick they'd get very somber very respectful.  When I said he'd been killed here fighting some enemies in Iraq, the kids would all start to murmur, peace be upon him, peace be upon him."
This weekend soldiers with Multi-National Division Baghdad will team up with Football Club Unity to host 36 soccer games in East Baghdad.  A total of 32 community games will be held and there will be four games of teams combining American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police.

"We've been thinking hard here in our combat brigade team about counter insurgency and on the thing we wanted to do is give the Iraqi culture its culture back and a part of that culture like any culture is sports and in Iraq sports means soccer," said Lt. Col. Shinners.

But the soccer balls likely wouldn’t be there for the tournament if it weren’t for Kick for Nick.

"For us it's great that Nick's memory is alive and continuing what he wanted to do or see happen, just keeps happening over and over again," said Bill Madaras.

“There is not a day, not a moment that goes by without us wishing that I could just put my arms around him, touch his face, hear his voice, have him give me a hard time about something.  That never goes away but he is still here,” said Shalini.

Nick is forever alive in the soccer balls collected in his name.

"Every time, and we envision this, every time a soldier puts a ball in a child's hand, that's his spirit around it," she said.

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