NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An organization is working to change lives one goal at a time with a unique soccer tournament in Times Square.
Teams of homeless men and women from 20 cities across the U.S. played Monday in a four-on-four soccer tournament for the National Cup as part of Street Soccer USA.
“We just wanted to empower people, you know, and sports is a way to teach people how to do for themselves and that’s why we’re here in Times Square to challenge our player’s idea of what is possible,” said Lawrence Cann, founder and CEO of Street Soccer USA.
Christopher Lodgson from Manhattan says soccer motivated his journey from a homeless shelter back to college and now into his own home and job.
“I had never played soccer a day in my life before running into this group,” he told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian.
He’s now taken on a leadership role in Street Soccer USA. He says the organization helped him after he lost his job.
“The first thing that they did was give me my confidence back and then reconnect me with a group of supporters and a family,” Lodgson said.
Akeemo Edwards came to the U.S. from Trinidad to be closer to his father, a relationship that didn’t work out as expected. He ended up in a shelter and teamed up with Street Soccer USA when a recruiter came in.
“He said, ‘well if you’d like to sign in,’ and I said sure it’ll keep me out the shelter, it’ll keep me away from all the negative that’s in the shelter,” he said.
The players are not only striving for goals on the field, but they’re also setting personal goals off the field and getting closer to success.
“I’ll be an AC, refrigeration technician,” Edwards said. “It’s a hot time right now, somebody needs to keep you cool.”
Homeless soccer has become a global movement and Street Soccer USA has helped many of its participants.
“Seventy-five percent of the players that are involved in our programs connect to jobs, housing or further education within a year and that’s our goal for our folks, to give them the skills they need to then move forward and make these links to services and a better life,” Cann said.
Lodgson says he too wants to expand Street Soccer USA’s mission.
“What I want to do is take people from when they leave the organization to support them in the months and years after that,” he said.
The tournament’s best players will go on to compete for spots on the men’s and women’s U.S. Homeless World Cup teams competing in Poland in August.
For more information, visit streetsoccerusa.org.
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