The 11th annual Connor Senn Memorial Match, which Tuesday pits the Columbus Crew vs. Ohio State on the school’s campus, has personal meaning for several Crew players as well as relevancy in the soccer community worldwide.
Crew midfielder Danny O’Rourke was a childhood friend of Senn, the freshman walk-on who had earned a starting spot when he collapsed during Ohio State’s match at Akron on Sept. 26, 2001, and died that night from a congenital heart defect.
O’Rourke has immortalized Senn via tattoos on his body and by wearing Senn’s No. 22 during the memorial matches.
“I’ll sit down and tell people what this game means and why we’re doing it and who he was so the spirit of Connor lives on,” O’Rourke said.
Through the memorial matches and auctions held at them, Ohio State was able to fully endow a scholarship in Senn’s name in 2007 as another example of how Senn’s memory is kept alive.
Also, his locker in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium remains empty and untouched and the mantra “Play Like Connor Today” is omnipresent on signs and T-shirts.
“I never knew Connor but having heard the stories it’s an honor to represent him,” said Crew rookie goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who played three seasons for Ohio State. “Whenever you get the chance to emulate someone of that character it’s great stuff.”
The match is entering its second season partnering with the Ohio State Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute to further research and education into sudden cardiac arrest.
“We’re fortunate the heart hospital stepped in and we’re able to work with them and not just on the cause for Connor but ultimately what ended his life,” O’Rourke said. “All you have to do is look at what’s happened lately around the world.”
He referred to a pair of highly publicized incidents of players collapsing on the field because of heart issues. Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba’ heart stopped beating naturally for 78 minutes after he went down during a game in England on March 17. Swift medical attention allowed him to survive and he is recovering, although his soccer career is in question.
However, Piermario Morosini died during an Italian league match on April 14th.
O’Rourke, who will along with Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers will speak at The Connor Senn Memorial Symposium on Sudden Cardiac Arrest on May 8, believes preventive care is the key to limit further tragedies.
“It’s not an epidemic but it shouldn’t happen to anybody,” O’Rourke said.”The more we can do to screen people and help them out the better so we don’t have to through a situation like this again.”
In the days leading to the game Lampson has quietly gone around to his teammates letting them know that Tuesday is not just another scrimmage.
“I’ll be sure and raise the awareness so everyone knows what it means to me and everyone else,” he said.