Amidst swirling transfer rumors and news of him no longer training with the Philadelphia Union, Jamiro Monteiro was in Upper Darby on Tuesday night with a wide smile on his face talking and playing with kids from The SWAG program.
The program, which aims to provide free high-level training to kids ages 4-8 in areas of the city where soccer isn’t typically the preferred sport, has been in the spotlight in recent weeks thanks to public comments from Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin, a new partnership announced with the Philadelphia Union Foundation and player visits like the one from Monteiro on Tuesday night.
Like he has been off the field as a player in his tenure as a midfielder for the Philadelphia Union, Monteiro showed up to the field at Observatory Hill Playground with little fanfare, joining other parents on the sidelines looking on as kids clad in bright yellow shirts played short-sided games and ran drills with their coaches.
When the small groups of kids took breaks, Monteiro went over to chat with them and answer questions about his life as a professional soccer player while also posing questions of his own to the kids. Toward the end of the evening, he posed for group photos and jumped in with some of the kids to play as daylight began to fade.
There’s understandably been a lot of speculation about the surprise news that Monteiro was in transfer talks after he didn’t dress for the Union’s game against the Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Not being able to see his two young children because of Covid-19 travel restrictions after they went home to the Netherlands earlier this summer has been cited in reports as one of the driving forces. But fan chatter has also speculated about his place in the club and drawn various conclusions from his being subbed out in the 60th minute against Inter Miami.
The 27-year-old Cape Verde international wasn’t there to talk about any of that on Tuesday night and it was just as well since the entire of point of The SWAG is about providing opportunities and opening doors to young people to the beautiful game they might not otherwise have in a country where the youth soccer infrastructure so often tilts toward those of means and privilege.
The soccer world for those of us who follow it closely is filled with an endless stream of chatter and noise, especially during the summer “silly season” that is the international transfer window. But it was easy to forget all of that Tuesday night and just admire a player who is one of the best to ever wear a Philadelphia Union jersey.
There was Miro, dancing around a small, uneven pitch with children half his size, the expression on his face displaying everything you already thought you knew about him as a person and the joy and enjoyment that can come even for a player at his level when breaking the game down to its grassroots foundation.
If his time with the Union has in fact come to an end — Curtin confirmed earlier in the day Tuesday that Miro is not training with the team — this will hopefully be a lasting image of Miro, ball at his feet, inspiring dreams and possibilities.