Something’s going on in Harlem
David Beckham and Ty Harden arrived in Harlem an hour early for the soccer clinic created for 30-or-so lucky FC Harlemunder-12’s. The Red Bulls’ Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore
David Beckham and Ty Harden arrived in Harlem an hour early for the soccer clinic created for 30-or-so lucky FC Harlem under-12’s. The Red Bulls’ Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore, stuck in traffic, arrived about an hour later. Which was a good thing, because after experiencing first hand the blood thirsty papparazzi in action, I don’t want to think what would have happened if it was the other way around.
The photographers were crazier than the fans, and arguably outnumbered them. And there I am with my little Pentax Optio point-and-shoot in a sea of Canon SLR Cameras with lenses the size of my leg. Size has its priviledge. They got their HD, zooming close-ups and I muscled my little guy in there for what you’ll find after the jump. I now know, just a taste, of what it must be like to work for TMZ. I’ve never seen anything like this, but that had nothing to do with any of the soccer…
But it should have. Because something’s going on in Harlem.
The day started much much mellower. Before meeting FC Harlem’s director Irv Smalls in April of this year, when I thought of Harlem, I thought of jazz, the Apollo, soul music and soul food. I still think of those things, but now I first think of soccer.
“This is tale of god’s will. This is tale of god’s will.” The new Terrence Blanchard CD was swinging out of my iPod as I came up to empty Jacob Schiff Field around noontime. Blanchard’s inspirational requiem-of-sorts for New Orleans was in my ears, but in my mind were thoughts of the Power of one. What exactly can Beckham do for American soccer, for New York soccer, for Harlem soccer, for FC Harlem soccer?
FC Harlem went from a pipe dream in April, even May of this year to getting David Beckham to appear in order to help announce the first of what is hopefully many more soccer fields in Harlem and throughout New York City. Just a few weeks ago, Irv told me he had maybe 15 kids for his U12 team. At their last practice, he had more than 60 ranging in ages from 10-to-18. People often say in regard to Beckham’s arrival to MLS and the Galaxy, one man does not make a team. And Irv, I’m sure, can attest to that, as he’s had countless hands helping him build FC Harlem. But just as we’ve seen Beckham’s impact as a leader, these teams would be nothing without these men. The power of one can have an enormous effect.
Everything was ready to go, hours ahead of time (this is not my usual experience with soccer events in New York). It was ship-shape. Metal barricades outlining half the field. White tents to protect from the elements and act as dressing rooms. New FC Harlem jerseys, shorts, socks, and shoes laid out for the participating kids. Banners – MLS, MLS Works, FC Harlem, nothing with red bull on it – hanging on every viable open piece of fence. If there is one thing New York parks have a lot of, its fences. They needed more. If I learned one new thing today about this whole Beckham circus – and yes I can now say having witnessed it with my own eyes that it is indeed a circus – its that there is only so much control MLS or anyone this side of a riot squad can have over this thing. FC Harlem, MLS, and the Wizard production company contracted to help put on the event should be applauded for their efforts. And I hope they name the new field after Irv, a man whose immense dedication makes me question my own.
The actual goings-on were less than spectacular from a spectator’s perspective. The kids played around, kick and chase, kick and chase. Coaches place them in some semblance of order as the time neared. And when I say time, I mean the cameras are now rolling. Beckham and Harden arrived rather quietly and jumped right into the clinic with the kids. There was no enormous cheer as Beckham and that other guy slipped in through the back gate. What else would they be doing? Was that another MLS exception? Will the Red Bull players have to come through the front gate? Angel has to be a little pissed.
Some dribbling drills ensue, some small-sided scrimmages, though I’m not absolutely sure Webster would define this as a clinic. But there were pennies! Soon after Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore arrived (through the back gate), the players, both professional and youth, gathered around in front of the gawking cameras to address the crowd and explain that Surpise! – it’s not just a Beckham photo-op. It’s about giving kids a field in this here concrete jungle. “There will be gala in March of 2008 to benefit the construction of a new socc….”Hey move over. Your blocking becks! hey Sexy!” (actual quote from a female photographer muffled thanks only to the garlic press of bodies and amplified speaker.)