The Beautiful Game: Bay Area Represent, Street Soccer USA In Full Effect

In the words of Chali 2na: “BAY……AREAAAAA!”

This piece by Chandrima Chatterjee. Find out how you can help the Bay Area Street Soccer USA team here.

There’s less than two weeks until the 2012 Street Soccer USA National Cup in NYC, yet there’s one team that’s been quietly yet diligently working away at practices, fundraisers and program building over the past few years and they are contenders both for the Cup and for the hearts of fans.

Stealth

After all in their first year competing in the SSUSA National Cup, 2009, they won the coveted Leonsis Family trophy. Then in 2010, they came in 2nd place to a visiting team from Russia. In 2011, they placed 3rd. Now they have expanded to include men and women’s teams and they are sending both to the National Cup in NYC in less than two weeks.

Spiriting….

From the moment I met the Bay Area team in 2011, I knew I’d love them – friendly, outgoing, spirited, natural team players and coaches. Frankly, their success early on and positive attitude, due in great part to director Rob Cann’s careful planning, training and persistence, led me to fathom founding a team in Philadelphia.

Watching Rob in his element this year during my trip out to San Francisco seeking guidance was eye-opening and inspiring. It’s rare to see someone fill the roles of mentor, coach, leader, director, friend and colleague so naturally and effortlessly. After all, his Bay Area Street Soccer van embodies his love and commitment for the program.

Their head coach Antoine Lagarde is no less remarkable, although I haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing him coach, I did have the luck of volunteering at the Homeless World Cup in Milan in 2009 where Antoine played for the USA team. It can sometimes be a struggle to remember all the players over the years, but he left me with the lasting impression with his immense skill and heart for the game. He went on to coach the National Team that competed in the Homeless World Cup in 2011 and is an integral coach of the Bay Area program while maintaining his job as a San Francisco Conservation Corps Teacher.

Antoine pretty much says it all with this quote back in 2009 while he was a player for Street Soccer Bay Area:

“Street Soccer USA has helped me empower myself and others by saying loud and clear, yes, I have struggled, I was one of those mentally ill people you see on the streets, but I wouldn’t trade my past for anything because whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Rob and Antoine give us a little insight into some of their players now:

Sofia has come a very long way.  Last year, she was on the streets surviving by collecting cans with her mother, but since then she’s found a room to rent and she is about to graduate from high school.  When she isn’t running furiously on the soccer field, she is working at the San Francisco Conservation Corps where she educates high schoolers about recycling and works on saving our planet!

Nathena also works at the San Francisco Conservation Corps and she is extremely dedicated to keeping our streets clean.  She was on the streets herself, but has since found transitional housing, and she is a shining star in the classroom where she is close to obtaining her high school diploma.  She is a tough goalie who doesn’t let a shot to the face keep her away from the action and she plans on joining the Teamsters and having a successful career in waste management.

David Rodriguez is the “Papa” of our team because he is always encouraging everyone and teaching the beginners new skills.  David used to play soccer in the second division in Costa Rica before his drinking caught up with him. After showing up to practices after drinking he eventually was dropped from the team and the downward spiral ensued. He came to the US looking for a better life and is now working hard on finding housing despite sending most of the money he earns as a server to his ailing mother in Costa Rica.  David plans on going back to school and credits Street Soccer USA for helping him re-find his love for soccer and to stay sober so that he can find a better job and move away from the shelter.

Street Soccer San Francisco operates out of the St. Vincent de Paul Society Multi-Service Center and is also partnered with the San Francisco Conservation Corps and Larkin Street Youth Services.

I can’t wait to see them as they undoubtedly try to recapture the Leonsis trophy and make history with their women’s team debut. Best of luck to them! Show your support too by joining us all July 26-29th in NYC!

Follow Street Soccer Bay Area’s team as they head to the Nationals!

Twitter : @BayArea_SSUSA :  Facebook: [press here]

For more info on the upcoming Street Soccer USA National Cup please go to:

http://streetsoccerusa.org/NYC-Cup2012

And, of course, their secret weapon….

Shh….

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