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Youth soccer stars shine at NYCFC’s annual community cup in Astoria

Matt Freese poses with fans. Photo by Queens Post

June 10, 2024 By Queens Post News Team

Hundreds of children from across the five boroughs of New York took part in New York City FC’s third-annual Community Cup at the Triborough Bridge Playground in Astoria on Sunday.

Children aged 8-11 from 30 different neighborhoods across the city took part in the annual tournament, which featured six teams per borough.

Defending champions Park Hill of Staten Island successfully defended their title at this year’s tournament, organized by City in the Community, the non-profit arm of NYCFC.

City in the Community provides free soccer coaching and mentoring to children across the five boroughs with a commitment to reaching historically underserved communities.

The non-profit provides safe places to play and learn and has installed 50 mini “blue” pitches across the city, impacting more than 30,000 children since 2013.

Sunday’s event featured free food, face-painting and PlayStation 5 video games, while participating children also got the opportunity to meet NYCFC goalkeeper Matt Freese and forward Malachi Jones.

Matt Freese and Malachi Jones during Sunday’s event. Photo by Queens Post

NYCFC’s Executive Director Brad Sims said events such as Sunday’s Community Cup are at the “core” of the club’s DNA. “It’s our mission to empower better lives through soccer and really lay these foundational roots in the community,” Sims said.

“We want to make sure that we’re providing alternatives for kids to be able to live better lives in their neighborhoods, and soccer is a great outlet for that.”

Matt Freese with NYCFC CEO Brad Sims during Sunday’s event. Photo by Queens Post

“There’s a talent identification aspect to it as well. There are kids that would never be able to afford to participate in some of these programs,” Sims added, stating that talented players from underserved communities could have been historically overlooked due to lack of access.

Freese, meanwhile, said it was important to continue to grow the game across the city. “It’s so important to continue to provide free programming to everyone, as many people as the organization can, and City In The Community does an incredible job of doing exactly that.”

Matt Freese poses with Mott Haven players during Sunday’s Community Cup. Photo by Queens Post

Jones said soccer has the opportunity to bring communities together, adding that the sport helped him adjust to life in the US after immigrating from Sierra Leone.

“Making the transition from Sierra Leone to here in the US, the easiest way for me to kind of get integrated into that culture was through the game,” Jones said. “That was the way I met my first friends.”

Jones added that soccer allowed him to cross paths with people he would have never encountered and provided him with a different perspective on life.

Jones said soccer should be accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds and said the City in the Community program was a “great start.”

“I think the joy and the passion and the fun that comes from being involved in soccer should be available to everyone,” Jones said.

“Doing an event like this kind of just gives people a little taste of it. The plan is to grow this bigger and bigger and try to have an even bigger impact. But I think it’s a great start, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Mauricio Maya, who has been involved with City in the Community for over 12 years, said the organization aims to help children feel like they belong to their communities.

Park Hill takes on Mott Haven in a penalty shootout. Photo by Queens Post

“When the kids wear the jersey and see their neighborhood written on the front, they feel so, so proud,” Maya said. “You can see it with their parents as well. Some of them have been here for over three hours cheering on the team.”

Nayelly Rodriguez, a City in the Community representative who joined the organization in 2019, said the organization has helped create a safe space for children to play across the city.

“The most important factor about this is that we have created a safe space for these kids to come and play and entwine with other people, ignoring all the problems they might have,” Rodriguez said.

“This is the one time they are able to be a kid, which is what they’re supposed to be. And a lot of times in society, they don’t have that ability. And that literally gives them the best feeling because they get to socialize, they get to talk, they get to express what they couldn’t before.”

Children take part in Sunday’s Community Cup. Photo by Queens Post

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