2016 CJSL NEW YORK CITY U17 A DIVISION CHAMPIONS
Sunday June 26 (Bronx, NY) – As Argentina and Chile prepared to play in the final of the 100th Anniversary of Copa America (South America’s oldest and most prestigious football tournament) at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the FC HARLEM LIONS on its 25th anniversary of existence prepared for the its first ever NYC championship match in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) U17 A Division. The CJSL is the oldest soccer league in NYC predating the formation of the US Soccer Federation. It is comprised of youth teams ages 10 -19 from all five boroughs. On this hot Sunday morning outside of the historic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the LIONS prepared to face off against its rival and one of the stronger clubs in the league: South Bronx United an affiliate of Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club (NYCFC).
The teams met in the season opener with FC Harlem coming back from a 2-1 halftime deficit to win 4-2. Both clubs are unique in NYC in that they focus on serving minority and immigrant youth and provide a social mission of using soccer and enrichment programs to put participants on a pathways on success. Many of the players from both clubs are friends, live in the same neighborhoods or attend the same schools. Both teams finished the season even on points and with an 8-2-0 record.
The match started off as a tough defensive battle. FC Harlem opened the scoring with a goal by Felipe Mejia in the 25th minute and then he doubled the advantage in the 32’ minute. South Bronx pulled one back before halftime. During the second half both teams were on the attack but South Bronx was pushing deeper into FC Harlem’s backline. South Bronx tied it up 2-2 on what was an absolutely amazing corner kick that sailed untouched in the top left hand corner! Around the 80th minute FC Harlem’s Ibrahim Daraja broke the tie with a nice run at goal making it 3-2. The LIONS defense stayed strong under each wave of attack from South Bronx United. When the final whistle blew, history was made as FC Harlem brought home its first ever trophy to the club but most importantly to the Harlem community.
“I am very proud of my guys. They worked hard all season. We told them that if they stayed discipline they could win.” said Head Coach Anders Khan who has been working with the U17/U18 teams for the last 5 years at FC Harlem. Irv Smalls, Executive Director of FC Harlem praised Coach Anders and all the supporting coaches and staff. “We are a small knit group here but we have committed coaches who all kick in to support our young men.” Irv also praised the LIONS partnership with Chelsea Football Club, FC Harlem’s Official Football Development Partner. “Our partnership with Chelsea FC has positively impacted the performance on this year’s team. Chelsea FC Foundation coaches have led training sessions since November 2015, offering player assessments and knowledge sharing with our coaches on many aspects of football development. As our partnership continues to grow I am confident that we continue to improve our performance on the pitch.”
Irv elaborated on the role of programs like FC Harlem on professional soccer in the US “We believe that youth from the inner cities can have a positive impact on the growth of the professional game here in the United States. Programs like ours show what the impact can be when we get access to resources to develop the individual on and off the field. I think it is a matter of time when we will have a LION participant playing in MLS and the US National Team. ”
“We want to thank our partners, supporters, volunteers, Board of Directors and all our sponsors for their role in helping our team achieve this major milestone in our club’s history. We look forward to creating a legacy of soccer excellence here in Harlem!”