Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders had an exhibition match against English Premier League Tottenham yesterday, and their starting 11 was actually a starting 12.
Xander Bailey, an 18-year-old from West Virginia with cystic fibrosis, suited up and started for the team, as per his request through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Bailey recorded the game’s first shot–against Ohio native Brad Friedel–and was then subbed off to a standing ovation from the home crowd at Century Link Field.
This is cool and something that you can’t help but get a little emotional about, despite how easy it is for the club to spin this into good PR. Bailey started with the Sounders earlier in the week after getting signed to an honorary contract, and then trained with the club on Friday. Why the Sounders, though? They’re Bailey’s favorite MLS club and feature his favorite player, Clint Dempsey.
Watch the video below to see Bailey in action and note all the tifos (those large banners you see fans unfurling at soccer matches) that fans dedicated to Bailey. That’s rad. ESPN also interviewed Bailey after the game, which you can also see below.
Make sure to have a box of tissues nearby.