Soccer can be a powerful tool for bringing people together. Since 1996 Columbus Crew SC, have been doing that, but they were not the first organization to do so in central Ohio.
Over 50 years ago the Greek Olympic Society formed in order to bring Columbus’ Greek immigrant community together through a combination of soccer and fellowship. These days, the Greek Olympic Society, in conjunction with the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral that houses them, hosts an annual Greek Night at MAPFRE Stadium.
Now in its third year, Greek Night serves as a chance for the Greek community of Columbus to come together and support one of its own, as Crew SC captain Wil Trapp comes from a family closely linked to the church. His grandfather, Demetri Michaelides was one of the founding members of the GOS in Columbus.
“We’re very proud of Wil,” said Stacey Stathulis, organizer of the Greek night festivities for the Cathedral. “He and his family have been involved with our church for a long time. We’re so proud to have him out there representing the Greek community in Columbus.”
For his part, Trapp is equally proud to represent his heritage.
“I grew up in the Greek church,” Trapp said. “Going back to my grandfather helping start (The Greek Olympic Society), it’s always been a part of my family.”
Trapp’s grandfather is not the only connection to Crew SC, however. As the years wore on, the Olympic Society began to focus more on cultural, educational, and philanthropic endeavors, with members volunteering at a wide variety of Columbus institutions such as Children’s Hospital, the Special Olympics, and starting in 1996, the Columbus Crew. With the advent of Major League Soccer, several founding members of the Olympic Society not only purchased season tickets, but began volunteering at the stadium.
“We love coming out to the stadium,” said Harry Ruska, current president of the Greek Olympic Society. “It’s just a great family-friendly atmosphere. You don’t get his kind of thing at other big sporting events. It’s great to feel so close to the players. It really gives you that sense of community.”
The church serves as a hub for central Ohio’s Greek community, which is estimated to be between three and four-thousand members strong. Alongside its traditional church services, the Cathedral sponsors several initiatives ranging from cultural and historical education to philanthropic endeavors. Best known amongst these is the annual Greek Festival held at the Cathedral every Labor Day weekend, which features a wide array of Greek food, music, dancing, and art.
“We really love coming out each year to take in a (Crew SC) game because it lets us spend time together as a community and support our local boys,” Stathulis said. “We love cheering on the team and we’re all so proud that one of our own is out there leading the team.”
Now leading the Crew as captain, Trapp is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, leading on the soccer pitch and in the community.
“I’m incredibly proud of my Greek heritage,” Trapp said. I’m very proud to be out there representing the Greek Church in Columbus.”