Immigrant Alphabet Project Soccer
On Saturday, September 16, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer hosted a clinic and free play event as part of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture's Immigrant Alphabet Project, which continues until December. The Immigrant Alphabet was completed by 18 students from Northeast High School, the most diverse high school in Philadelphia, who produced a photo project that embodied their immigrant experience. Saturday's event was a celebration of immigrants, held at the Thomas Paine Plaza across from Philadelphia City Hall.
Children from all communities stopped by to play soccer with their siblings or friends and celebrate the beautiful game. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Technical Director Mike Barr walked some of the young players through simple drills, teaching them techniques such as step-overs and Maradona's.
"Soccer is the one thing that can bring every country together," said Barr. "If you can talk about or play soccer, you can build relationships so easily across cultures."
The event also featured traditional dances, educational plays, yoga and other aspects of immigrant communities. Many of the children who were there to take part joined in on the street soccer.
"Most countries in the world, soccer plays a huge part in culture and recreation," said Immigrant Alphabet Project Manager Diana Misdary. "Whether you have a lot of resources or not, soccer is a big deal. So we'd be remiss if we talked about immigrants and the immigrant experience without talking about soccer. We're so grateful to Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer to come out and represent not only eastern Pennsylvania but children all over the world who are doing this on concrete or dirt roads, making it part of their childhood experience and the Philadelphia experience as well."
Representatives from the Philadelphia International Unity Cup, which began play last weekend, were there as well. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer is once again sponsoring the Fair Play Award for that tournament.
"Getting involved in events like the Immigrant Alphabet and the International Unity Cup helps us bring soccer to all children in our state," said Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer CEO Chris Branscome, who was on hand Saturday. "We know what a powerful instrument it is and hope that the ideals we preach, like fair play and respect, make a positive impact in immigrant communities."