Traveling creates memories for people one trip at a time. For Atlanta United’s Unified Team, it makes more than life-long memories. It brings the group of “Unified Players” –– athletes with a disability –– and “Unified Partners” –– athletes without disabilities –– together as a family.
Every season, the team travels a few times a year for their matches. This year they traveled to Salt Lake City for their match versus Real Salt Lake’s Unified Team.\
“Traveling on the road with the team is amazing,” Antonio Guzman expresses. “I love traveling with these guys. These guys are my family.”
As they stay together in hotels and fly, they are able to bond together off the pitch. They go to the pool, explore the city and spend quality time together. For some of the players, Unified away matches are their first time traveling on a plane. This creates lots of different sentiments among the players.
“Everyone was excited, and a player was a little nervous to fly, but everyone’s excitement helped them fly,” Unified Partner David Wilkerson shared. “When we started flying, they were more relaxed and happy.”
One of the reasons the team felt welcomed was due to the people surrounding them. Delta flight attendants on the flight treated the team like royalty. As they landed in the West, they had a surprise for the team.
“She told everyone over the intercom to come watch us play in the Rio Tinto Stadium,” Unified Player Shaq Pinson said with enthusiasm. “People cheered and clapped for us. It made me feel excellent. It actually made me see people appreciate my talents. It was cool.”
Besides the recognition on the plane, the team cannot even travel without Atlanta United fans spotting them and asking for photos and autographs whether it’s in the hotel or in the airport.
“We are family,” Pinson says with love. “I know Atlanta United has my back. I think that it helps us come closer together when we travel.”
Besides fans having their back, the first team has their back as well. When they arrive to the hotels, the team usually greets them in the lobby and shows their support for the team.
“It feels amazing to travel with the team and go to all these different cities,” Guzman said. “I love supporting them. I love being out there for them. They always have our backs, and we always have their backs every single time.”
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