People share interests that connect them together and for Matthew and his father, that bond is the sport of soccer. Since Matthew was just 4 years old, they’ve watched games, supported clubs and even practiced together. Growing up, he tried multiple sports as well, but none captured his heart quite like soccer.
“I tried almost every sport as a kid,” Matthew said. “Soccer was just the best for me.”
However, four years ago, Matthew’s playing time on the pitch came to a halt. He was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer. During his time in the hospital, he continued to consume the game by watching it on tv, but missed getting touches on the ball.
“That’s why it was so challenging when I was in the hospital,” Matthew said. “That’s why I was troubled because I couldn’t play.”
During his recovery, Matthew was granted a wish from Make-A-Wish foundation. He chose to go to England to attend a Manchester United match. He and his family toured the stadium and even received a special surprise.
“I was doing the tour, and they brought players over to see me,” Matthew said. “I met [Marcus] Rojo, Luke Shaw and all the players.”
Besides Manchester United, Matthew grew into a rowdy and proud #17 – the Atlanta United number dedicated to the club’s supporters. He attended the inaugural game at Bobby Dodd and instantly fell in love with Atlanta United – the same team that was founded around the same time of his diagnosis.
“It’s been really fun and an outlet with all the stuff I’ve been through,” Matthew said. “It’s been a way I can just watch soccer and just live in the moment and just watch how awesome these players are.”
In partnership with Rally Foundation and Atlanta Classic Cars, Matthew had quite the Atlanta United packed day – hanging out with the club’s USL team, ATL UTD 2, for the last game of the season. He was the guest of honor at the Proving Ground – flipping the coin with the captains and taking pictures with them at the start of the match. After, watching the team cap off their first season with a victory, he had the opportunity to meet his favorite players, Chris Goslin and Miles Robinson, on the pitch.
“Last year when I did the tour here, Miles and I hung out at Dave and Buster’s. He’s my favorite,” Matthew said. “I love Goslin. He’s just really good. I love watching him play.”
But his experience didn’t stop there, as Matthew had a chance to visit the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground to watch practice, meet the team, staff and even first team head coach Tata Martino as well as ATL UTD 2 head coach Scott Donnelly.
“I am really at a loss for words,” Matthew said. “It was so much fun. It was just cool just to shake hands with them. It was cool to see how humbling they were.”
Now, Matthew will return to the stands being one of the loudest in Mercedes-Benz Stadium cheering on the 5-Stripes. And though he doesn’t spend a lot time on the pitch, soccer continues to be a love in his life – a sport and culture that’s helped him through the trials he’s conquered in his life.