Thursday, June 21, 2012

Street Soccer NYC - I Play For Family

Editors Note: This fantastic story of growing the game was introduced to us by Chandrima Chatterjee. It seems that Chandrima is always volunteering and working to grow the game in ways that so many miss out on. To that end, we at MLSR fully support her amazing efforts in growing Street Soccer USA. They've been sharing city profiles and teams for a national tournament to be held in New York City. Read on for one such profile and follow them on twitter to share your support. - Luke Lohr

By - Caleb Olson, co-coach Street Soccer NYC; Edited- Chandrima Chatterjee

If you have been keeping up with Street Soccer USA over the past month you may have noticed our city profiles that we’ve been sharing online. Street Soccer NYC, is one of 21 cities participating in the Street Soccer USA network, and is our host city for the upcoming national tournament, The 2012 Street Soccer USA Cup. So let’s get to know them a little better by meeting some of the players, coaches, graduates and volunteers!

Every city ‘plays’ for something conceptually fundamental, and in New York we play for one of the most important things in life, family! In the photo (above) you will notice the ‘I Play For’ banner, courtesy of the ad wizards at Publicis, which hangs in the gym at Help SEC above our street soccer pitch. We are very fortunate to play in this facility each week and on one of three portable street soccer pitches, which were graciously donated by US Soccer Foundation. We currently hold practice every Monday and Wednesday from 7-9pm at Help SEC (1 Wards Island) and every Tuesday at 6pm our women’s team meet in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

 Follow Street Soccer New York on Facebook for updates and photos. Hashtag #SSNYC on twitter and check out our website for a full schedule of events.



One beautiful thing about the Street Soccer USA program is that once players become part of the team, play in a Street Soccer USA Cup and even attend the Homeless World Cup, some continue to participate in the program long after they have moved out of the shelter system or have been holding a steady job. Players like Mel Lopez, who attended the 2012 Paris Homeless World Cup, continue to come to practices to share their experiences on the field with the new guys. Mel is doing quite well off the field with stable employment and has been apartment hunting lately! 
Donnie Nicholson (photographed above) is another one of our dedicated graduates who has been with the Street Soccer NYC program for a couple of years. He grew up in a military family and moved around a lot while struggling with depression and bipolar disorder. 

After high school Donnie joined the Navy, all the while he was still struggling with depression, but did not want them to know about it. Instead of talking to a doctor and taking his medications, he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. After failing a drug test and being kicked out of the Navy, he had a very hard time adjusting to civilian life and developed a drug habit.

Donnie moved to NYC about 2 years ago, after a few months at SEC, he saw some guys playing soccer. He had played soccer in high school so he decided to join the team and eventually became captain of the NYC team at the last 2011 SSUSA Cup in DC. He’s now living on his own in Far Rockaway, has a job, and has been clean for over a year. When Donnie is not working at the deli, he is making the long haul to Wards Island to help his team prepare for the 2012 SSUSA NYC Cup. He is also assisting coach TK with the women’s team in Brownsville twice a week. When asked how Street Soccer has impacted his life he simply said, “You guys make a difference and I hope I can give something back to the team and the coaches.”

Player Ronnie Love openly talks about how he feels after being with the Street Soccer NYC program ever since we opened the door to the Doe Fund in April. “I feel alive again! At practice I can forget about where I am at. It is tough sometimes being surrounded by guys who have been in prison or lived on the streets because they try to bring you down. Out here I feel like I am back home.”

Ronnie moved to New York from Oklahoma with dreams of being an actor/comedian but as he got off a bus in NYC with a bag and a little bit of savings, a passerby suggested a hotel around the corner from the station. Ronnie, being the cheerful and trusting guy that he is, accepted the man’s recommendation. He put his belongings up in his room and headed off to a job interview only to return to find that he had been robbed. This unfortunate event forced him into the shelter system. Eventually, he landed at The Doe Fund and is now excelling in his jobs there and completing several of the courses they offer. He is a mentor at a weekly youth program that the Doe Fund partners with. One of his goals is to create a kid-friendly Youtube channel with no foul language and make people laugh!

The Street Soccer NYC Volunteers

We are very lucky to have such a solid group of volunteers over this past year. People like Junior, Travis, Alex and Stephen were very dedicated to the team when we competed in the Chelsea Piers winter league. It is during that time that we played against the man featured in the photograph above.

Spyros Kallipolitis played against Street Soccer NYC late one Friday night and showed off his quickness on and off the ball. He is a skilled soccer player with incredible sportsmanship. After the game we handed out our Street Soccer flyer, like we frequently do at the matches to try and recruit volunteers. Rarely does this method work but this time it did! 

The following week Spryos showed up at Wards Island ready to give it his all. He genuinely cares about the program and the players on the team. Although he arrives at work for Deutsche Bank long before most of us hit snooze on the alarm, he still comes to practice at least once a week where he is able to play the sport he loves so much and lends a caring ear to the players and give great advice to the guys. We greatly appreciate all of our volunteers at Street Soccer NYC! Thank you all!

Training for the 2012 Street Soccer USA Cup

As we get closer to The Street Soccer USA Cup in NYC, the level of focus and hard work is really starting to show in our group of players. Everyone knows that we have not yet selected our teams to represent the men and women of Street Soccer New York so the pressure to ‘Show Up’ is on!

In the photo above you will notice Coach Ayana demonstrating how to volley the ball to a very attentive group of guys from Help USA, The Doe Fund and even our Street Soccer USA intern Matt! Although the natural desire to just play the game is always apparent at practice, we still take the time to go over technical skills of the game. Just having the home court advantage is not going to be enough if Street Soccer NYC hopes to compete with the very skilled Street Soccer USA teams who will come to our turf and try to take the Cup!

It’s not just about winning at Street Soccer NYC though. We try to make it clear each practice that we won’t make you a professional soccer player. We are here to grow as individuals and bond as a family. Come out to the Street Soccer USA Cup in NYC July 26-29th and watch us Play for Family!

For more info on the upcoming Cup visit us at

Follow us on twitter: @streetsoccerusa

Follow us on facebook : or for the NYC team:


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