Community honors Malaki Ward at annual soccer tournament
The Chattanooga Sports Ministry hosted a soccer tournament on November 23 honoring a former player. 9-year-old Malaki Ward took his own life on October 22. Family, friends, and the community took a break from the games at noon to remember his legacy.
During that break, the ministry presented the Malaki Ward Passion Memorial Award to a participant. One of Malaki's former teammates, Alex Ray, won the award.
Saturday, the community showed just how much he is missed. Malaki's former teammate and award winner remembers his favorite things about playing soccer with Ward.
Alex Ray said, "He kept encouraging and passing the ball."
Encouraging is a word that came up several times Saturday, and it's only right that the winner of Malaki's award has that quality. Alex Ray, more commonly known as “Boochie,” represents that both on and off the field.
"By like encouraging and passing it to people and helping people when they feel bad," Ray said of his own how he treats people.
Boochie's father was with him when officials presented him with the award. He was happy for his son.
The father said, "I'm very proud of him, this award means a lot. He might not understand right now, but later on, he will too."
It's been tough for Boochie after losing his teammate and friend.
"Malaki, you know, he was his friend and he played soccer with him. After the incident happened it was kind of hard to talk to him about it,” the father told us.
He has come a long way this past month. Playing soccer with Chattanooga Sports Ministry has given him an outlet to remember his friend in a positive light.
"You know it's brought us peace, you know, every Saturday they get to come out and hang out with their friends and play soccer and just have a good time,” the father shared.
Boochie was thinking about Malaki when he was playing Saturday. He felt very special to be the first person to win this award.
Boochie told us, "I'm feeling the best I can be."
This award is going to be given annually now. Coaches nominate one of their players and it goes through a selection committee before the winner is finally picked and recognized each year at this Neighborhood Soccer Tournament.