NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A local team had a rooting interest in Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and Lille.
That’s because Chelsea, the defending Champions League winners, is partners with a local soccer team named FC Harlem.
As CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reports, Harlem is excited about soccer and its possibilities.
“The best has come out of Harlem, right? Like, I mean, you name it. Whether it’s food, music, culture, fashion, dress, you name it, it’s come out of Harlem,” said Irv Smalls, executive director of FC Harlem.
The nonprofit initiative is based in a community not normally associated with soccer, but these streets provide fertile ground for future stars.
“What about the youth who are in these environments? Because the one thing we talk about with youth in inner city, there’s a natural sense of curiosity, a natural sense of creativity and they’re really good … working in tight spaces,” Smalls said.
Since 1991, this program has been home to more than 7,000 kids from Harlem and 80% have gone on to college.
“Success for FC Harlem is really about empowering and inspiring youth of color to achieve to be the future leaders that they wanna be in the world, and we think football can be the catalyst for doing that,” Smalls said.
Nearly a decade ago, English Premier League club Chelsea began a partnership with FC Harlem, helping to provide exposure to soccer without the expense.
“The one thing that we’ve done, which is really important here in Harlem, is we’ve taken away that barrier of entry, which is these high fees. Many of our kids just come in for free,” Smalls said.
Just like their partner club, the FC Harlem symbol is a lion. In this case, it means “leaders in our neighborhoods.” While this team has proven they can compete with the best in their age group, the focus remains on the self-journey of every individual.
“I can do something in life and have a positive impact, mot only in my community, in my family and for myself. And we want to see how we can achieve that in sport, in this case, particularly soccer,” Smalls said.
Using sports to change lives.
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