FC Harlem opens youth training field with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez

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FC Harlem opens youth training field with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez

It was an exciting day and a huge honor to take part in the unveiling of FC Harlem’s new soccer field yesterday in Riverside Park. The event was filled with a fervent group of kids that got the opportunity to participate in a coaching session directed by the New York Red Bulls. The professional players, Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez, demonstrated how school subjects such as math also come in handy while playing soccer.  Angles and strategies are important aspects of the game.  It’s amazing what children can learn from soccer. Lessons that I learned from soccer are ones that I have used throughout my life.

Irv Smalls, Executive Director of FC Harlem said it perfectly when he stated, “This field will allow sports to have a positive influence on the upcoming generation.” It’s inspiring to see that an empty parking lot has been turned into a place for the kids and the community of Harlem to use as a powerful vehicle for social change. This field provides children with a chance to play and creates chances and opportunities to learn and grow from the game of soccer.

This event truly gave back to the community and it was rewarding to see how revitalizing this soccer field has a positive effect. When it comes down to putting something like this together one must have passion and vision, which Irv Smalls certainly possesses. Now parents have a safe place and an incredible organization to help inspire and empower their children. At the end of the ceremony, a male and a female participant were chosen to kick off the start of this new field. One of the kickers, Sydney Ashton said, “It felt really great kicking the soccer ball. It was nice. It was an exciting day.”

I have my restaurant Red Rooster here in Harlem and everything that it took to build that establishment correlates with things that I learned on the soccer field: You have to be a teammate, you have to work very hard, you have to listen to your coach, and it’s with the same drive that I obtained from soccer that I have put towards my cooking career. The advice that my coach gave me all those years ago while playing the sport has made me a better chef today. The parents and kids are in great hands with an organization like FC Harlem.

I expressed to the children who participated in yesterday’s event that eating healthy and making good food choices, such as munching on enough vegetables and eating only a small amount of fried food are key for good eating and athleticism. I encouraged parents to use fresh ingredients and to think about healthy snack options before sending their kids to play soccer. At Red Rooster, we will soon offer kids in the community free cooking classes to teach them about the importance of using fresh and healthy ingredients. I was thankful to be invited to this event because it was a great day for everyone here in Harlem and I thoroughly enjoy supporting anything that is related to benefiting the youth.  When we come together as a community, we can create something really beautiful.