Below is an edited version of an original article published on thisisamericansoccer.com
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MLS Streets to Fields Gala Honors Beckham and Pele raises funds for fields for FC Harlem
Gotham Hall, Midtown Manhattan. The 2008 Streets To Fields black tie gala put on by MLS W.O.R.K.S. and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to “celebrate the sport of soccer in the United States” donated proceeds to Harlem Youth Soccer “to help build a soccer field for its players and develop an after-school soccer and leadership training program.” The New York Timesreported that $300,000 was raised by the very unpublicized event. David Beckham gave “theaward to the man,” in his words, honoring Pele for his lifetime achievement in supporting American soccer. A leadership award went to Phil Anschutz while the philanthropy award went to freshly minted New York Governor and Harlem-born David Paterson. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush showed their support through pre-taped videos.
Behind all the glitz, glamor and sculpted ice there was a reason for this banquet. Full feature to come on the whirlwind year in the life of Executive Director Irv Smalls and the biggest little club in New York. For now, a photo story to wet your appetites.
Over 500 people attended the gala. Ten tickets (one table) which included dinner and an open bar went to those donating $15,000.
Irv and two FC Harlem players, Ephriam Fosu, 19, and Kingsley Boakye, 19, prepare for the special night with a photo shoot at Irv’s downstairs neighbor’s makeshift photo studio. Ephram, an articulate young man headed to Thiel College in PA to play soccer and run track, wrote me the following reflection the morning after the event. Like Obama on the campaign trail, I’m humbled by our youth…
I was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, living mostly with a family friend since both my parents died. I was little to be in that kind of situation not knowing my parents at a very young age, but I wasn’t told about what happened to them until recently. It was hard for me to live without my parent’s love, or having them watch me become a talented soccer player. I started playing football, or as we call it over here soccer, at the age of 7, kicking soccer balls around, and just running after it. That’s how it starts.
Last night at Gotham Hall, I met not only my two greatest soccer idols, David Beckham and Pele, but also commissioner Don Garber, Brad Hays, Sunil Gulati , owner of New England Revolutions Robert Kraft, and John Koskinen of the U.S Soccer Foundation. All men I have heard and read stories about but to talk to them was nice. For FC Harlem, I hope this too is a new beginning.
David Beckham reiterated his belief in American soccer. It’s the first time I wondered what English fans think about their boy working for the USofA. Maybe I’ve just watched too much of that new John Adamsminiseries.