NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While the eyes of the world have been on the World Cup, there’s a small soccer club in Harlem that’s not as concerned about who wins.
For them, it’s about making sure kids get professional coaching to keep them competitive on and off the field.
Tucked under the West Side Highway at 145th Street is the home turf of FC Harlem.
It’s a youth league that’s bringing soccer to a community underserved by this global sport, and players are even more energized now that World Cup fever has taken hold.
“What’s exciting is when the kids look around and they see a player that’s from their country or from the United States and they see something that he does very well, or even in the coaches or the fans, it inspires them even more,” club executive director Irvine Smalls told CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois on Friday.
Just about all of the players have families from different countries, and their World Cup support is just as varied. Players Dubois met on Friday were pulling for teams like Mexico, Germany, France and the United States.
But to make any player the complete package, lessons off the field must play a big role.
“They’re showing us confidence and also not to give up,” said 15-year-old Alseny Barry.
“This is what it takes to be a World Cup player. It’s those things on the field, but there’s attributes, there’s attitudes that you need to have that’s off the field and so we try to really emphasize that,” Smalls said.
“They taught me everything I know. They been like my second family,” said 14-year-old Karla Garcia.
And for those 13-to-15-years-olds, watching the pros and lessons learned in playing hard has not been lost.
“If you try hard you can become like them in the future,” 13-year-old Saul Melendez said.
“They gonna give everything they got (and get) everything I got,” 13-year-old Junior Bravo added.
“It’s like we’re here, we’re part of this country, we come from a lot of other different countries and we bring a lot of value here,” Smalls said. “It’s a proud day to be an American. You want to see the U.S. go as far as they can.”
The organization works with young people in Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx. It has been in the game since 1990.
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