A special night for a special cause.
The Fuerza Puerto Rico Friendly not only raised funds and awareness for hurricane relief, it brought thousands of people together from different backgrounds who share a common passion in the beautiful game. Soccer brings people together on a deeper level -- the Puerto Rico National Team and Orlando City SC proved that once again on Saturday night.
Puerto Rico defender Juan Coca spoke to the media after the match. He expressed his feelings toward the event, and what it means to the Puerto Rican players.
“It’s been a beautiful experience the whole week,” Coca said. “It’s been very difficult this past month in Puerto Rico, it was really nice to have all this emotion and all this energy of Puerto Rican pride -- seeing all those flags waving and people screaming ‘Puerto Rico’. People kept cheering us on and making us feel at home, so we’re really appreciative of all the Orlando City fans.”
Coca later explained the difficulties facing the Puerto Rico team -- not having access to training facilities on the island, logistical problems and everything that comes with working around the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
“It’s been very difficult to train in Puerto Rico. A couple of times I went to these fields and they would have trees on them or just completely destroyed,” Coca recounted. “It’s been very hard but I think we just need to keep working and making the best out of it.”
Puerto Rico head coach Carlos Cantarero also spoke after the match. He talked about his team’s positive experience all week in Orlando -- thanking everyone involved with this wonderful charity event.
“We definitely felt at home as we went around and went to different activities around the city. The players took a lot of pictures with people who recognized them,” a smiling Cantarero said. “We felt the warmth of the Puerto Rican community and I could tell the players were very appreciative of the amount of attention and love that they were getting as we went through the week.”
8,231 was the official match attendance, with the majority of that crowd chanting and waving Puerto Rican colors for the entire 90 minutes.
“I am very appreciative of what was going on in the stands. The atmosphere in the stadium, bringing attention to what the situation is in Puerto Rico, and just very thankful for the experience we had.”
Cantarero went on to thank the Orlando City community and emphasize the accomplishment of a shared goal: help Puerto Rico during a time of need.
“I am very appreciative of everything Orlando has done here, and very appreciative of the feedback we’ve gotten.”
“One of the objectives of this event was to help [Puerto Rico] rebuild and bring awareness of what’s happening there, and that objective was definitely accomplished.”
If you would like to donate to the United for Puerto Rico initiative, click here.