|Physician swaps white coat for jersey
by Cindy Abole
There are moments never to be forgotten. For MUSC nephrologist Juan
Carlos Velez, M.D., one of those moments came after scoring a goal in
the 75th minute of a World Medical Football Federation soccer game
“Playing three games daily was physically tough on all of us,” Velez
said. “The experience was awesome especially as we played as a team
representing the United States of America.”
mid-fielder Dr. Juan Velez advances the ball during a match at the
World Medical Football Federation Championship.
About 250 participants gathered at the annual World Medical Football
Federation Championship held in Innsbruck, Austria, July 10 to 17. And
like the 2010 FIFA World Cup held this year in South Africa, the event
brought soccer players together from all parts of the globe to play a
week of soccer and display their athletic prowess. The difference was
these players also were physicians.
Velez, assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Nephrology,
is a year-round, competitive soccer player. He heard about the
championship of soccer-playing physicians with the World Medical
Football Championship last year from medical colleague and friend Sammy
Becdach, M.D., also a competitive soccer player.
Each summer, the physicians' organization host a competitive soccer
tournament that rotates to locations around the world. Heeding his
lifelong love for competition and childhood sport, Velez joined the
team of 16 Los Angeles-based physicians and specialists. Velez, who has
played most of his life on competitive soccer teams, plays for the
James Island and Charleston City League and was the only academic
physician in the bunch.
“I grew up playing soccer since age 6 and I’ve been playing it ever
since,” said Velez, who was born in New Jersey but grew up in Lima,
Peru. “In South America and other parts of the world outside of the
U.S., soccer is virtually considered a religion.”
The event was founded in 2000 by Spanish physician Ferran Morrell,
M.D., who established the championship for medical teams in Barcelona.
In 2004 it became part of the Global Congress on Medicine and Health in
Sport. Participating teams included Austria, Brazil, Catalonia,
Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Korea, Lithuania and Sweden. Teams
from the USA and Switzerland played for the first time in this year’s
Sixteen USA team players, accompanied by a handful of families and
friends, journeyed to Innsbruck in early July. The tournament's
organization and play mirrored the World Cup format in many ways. The
event began with an opening ceremony, each team was introduced and
national anthems were played prior to play. Teams played in groups
under a round-robin format. Games were 80 minutes of play with two
40-minute halves. Winners advanced to knock-out rounds, while losers
played in the consolation round. According to Velez, play was furious
and the competition was intense.
The USA team’s debut against host nation, Austria, tied them at the
half, but lost 1-3. They tied Switzerland, 0-0. In the consolation
round, they lost to Korea, 2-3 and with Lithuania, 1-5. The teams lost
five of six games, and had one tie.
Currently, Velez is working with team organizers to create a non-profit
organization to support and sponsor their team and recruit talented
players. Locally, he hopes to organize a charity soccer tournament
featuring the USA team, where a portion of proceeds benefit the
National Kidney Foundation.
“We need the support of others to help raise funds to cover team
registration costs, organization with practices, travel and other
needs,” Velez said. “We’d like to help fund this through corporate or
business sponsorships and other fundraising ideas.”
Friday, Aug. 13, 2010