Scarsdale Athlete Wins Gold Medal at 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games
- Monday, 22 January 2024 07:58
- Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2024 07:58
- Published: Monday, 22 January 2024 07:58
- Joanne Wallenstein
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Allison Stafford, a two-time All-State soccer player and 2019 graduate of Scarsdale High School, won a gold medal as a member of the US women’s soccer team at the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games. The Maccabi Games are held every two years, alternating between a country in South America and Israel. The 2023 Games were held in Buenos Aires from December 27 to January 5. First held in 1932, the Games are an international celebration of Jewish unity, culture and heritage through athletic competition.
In Buenos Aires over a thousand Jewish athletes from across North, Central and South America, Great Britain, Australia, Israel and several other countries competed in dozens of sports in both youth and adult age groups. The kickoff was an elaborate two-hour Opening Ceremony held at Molistar Arena in Buenos Aires on December 28 at which newly elected Argentine President Javier Melei, among other dignitaries, spoke. The atmosphere at the Games was impacted by the situation in Israel and the Hamas attack of October 7. Stafford, a 2023 graduate of Amherst College who played varsity soccer, is applying to medical school this year. She was selected for the USA women’s soccer team and was a starting center back.
The team gave up one goal in the entire tournament, defeating competitors from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and a U18 team from the US. “It was a thrill to be selected for the USA women’s team,” said Stafford. “My teammates were current and former college soccer players from across the country, including from some of the top Division I programs. There was a ton of talent and also an opportunity to meet and make friends with women with whom I had a common heritage. The other players were really nice and we quickly developed camaraderie.” While the athletic competition and winning the gold medal was a highlight for Stafford, she said it is not what she will remember most about her experience. “The feeling of closeness among the players on our team came quickly and was amazing. And the raw emotion we all felt hearing the Israeli and US national anthems played as we were awarded our gold medals, made many of us tear up. We also spent time as a group sightseeing around the city and learning about Argentine history, including the terrorist attacks against Jews in the 1990s,” said Stafford.
Security throughout the event was tight and Stafford said she and her teammates felt safe. The 2025 Maccabi Games will be held during the summer in Israel. Stafford expressed an interest in playing for the USA women’s soccer team then before she begins medical school. “This was a great experience, a real celebration in the face of the terrible events in Israel on October 7. Having the opportunity to represent the US again in 2025 would be an honor.”