Chelsea FC: Visit from New York will help positive steps

Below is an edited version of an original article published on chelseafc.com
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Visit from New York will help positive steps

The Chelsea Foundation was delighted to welcome new FC Harlem head coach Caetano Sanchez and executive director Irv Smalls to London last week ahead of what is set to be an exciting year for our partner club in New York.

credit: chelseafc.com
The Foundation teamed up with FC Harlem for the first time in 2013, with the objective to make a positive impact on young people from the inner city. The partnership has gone from strength to strength since then with Ashley Cole and Michael Essien’s visit to New York in November, where the Chelsea duo linked up with coaches from Foundation and FC Harlem to put on a special coaching session for local kids, among the highlights last year.

The next 12 months are set to be more exciting than ever as preparations continue for a new covered Blue Pitch in New York, a short distance from FC Harlem’s current home, and plans to engage a wider section of the local community with additional coaching support from the Foundation and principal club sponsor Yokohama.

With these plans in mind, Smalls and Sanchez – who prior to his appointment as head coach spent several years volunteering with FC Harlem – visited Stamford Bridge and Cobham to develop a greater understanding of the club and Foundation.

The new FC Harlem head coach is excited about the work ahead. He said: ‘I am delighted to be given this role. When I think about what soccer gave me in life and the chance to help others in a similar way, it truly excites me.

“We want to work with Chelsea to develop those we engage at FC Harlem both as people and footballers. We want to use sport to change lives.”
Caetano Sanchez

‘We want to work with Chelsea to develop those we engage at FC Harlem both as people and footballers. We want to use sport to change lives. That can be by finding someone who is a real player or just get someone healthier or on a more personal level with new friends. In my experience that is what soccer did for me and I want to help others in Harlem and the community.

‘Working with schools allows us to work with players who might not have known much about football, as in the States football is less popular in urban areas despite the mix of cultures who love soccer. The opportunities aren’t there so the chance to work with Chelsea in schools can change this.

‘The week I have had in London has been special. For one I got to see the game versus Barcelona, but I have been welcomed by the club as a whole and learned a lot from watching Academy and Foundation coaching sessions which I plan to use when I return home.’

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Much of Sanchez’s time in London was spent with the Chelsea Foundation’s senior development officer for the USA, Chris Woodward, who along with two colleagues will leave for New York in March to support programmes in Harlem and elsewhere in America.

Woodward said: ‘We are making positive steps in Harlem. Throughout local schools we are building on the work at FC Harlem and becoming an integral part of the community.

‘Having coaches on the ground, wearing the Chelsea FC badge, is a powerful image and helps Caetano and the other coaches engage with a community who love the game.’

Chelsea Foundation international development manager Ian Woodroffe added: ‘We are excited about the year ahead, we have already been working hard both in the USA and UK and the appointment of Caetano now moves us to a new phase of the partnership as we look to increase the engagement across schools in Harlem.’

2018 FC Harlem + Nike Collaboration Kit

LINK TO PURCHASE (Europe Only)

Innovation and improvisation are Harlem’s calling cards. From the stage of the Apollo, to the concrete runway of 125th Street, to the hallowed grounds of the Rucker, it is the authenticity of this neighbourhood that forms the threads of the FC Harlem Kit.

One of the first shirts from the Nike By You Collaboration Programme
Credit: nike.com

DESIGN DETAILS

First designed as a traditional club shield, the FC Harlem logo was envisioned as a simple but strong mark that connected Harlem with the global football community. The sweeping lion’s head emanating from the football symbolises the confident, creative, fluid style of football that will come from our inner cities. Then and now, the emphasis has always been to pursue design that honours Harlem’s identity as a global leader in cultural creativity.

Credit: nike.com

COLLABORATOR STORY

Established in 1991 with the goal of exposing Harlem youth to the World’s Game, FC Harlem has expanded upon this original mission to focus on developing future leaders on and off the pitch. The nickname L.I.O.N. means Leaders In Our Neighbourhoods. It is a statement to the club and community that the players who wear the badge are talented, confident, competent and caring and will positively impact the world around them.
FC Harlem’s vision is a national project driven by its leadership and football philosophy to develop world-class players from the untapped inner cities of the United States. LIONS will lead the future.

Founded:1991
Location: HARLEM, NYC
Mantra: BE FEARLESS

Credit: nike.com

BENEFITS

Dri-FIT fabric keeps you dry, cool and comfortable

Raglan sleeves allow natural movement and heightened mobility

Amsterdam News: Chelsea legends Ashley Cole and Micheal Essien dedicate field in Harlem

Below is an edited version of an original article published on amsterdamnews.com
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Chelsea legends Ashley Cole and Micheal Essien dedicate field in Harlem

Written By: Jaime Harris

Tuesday, as part of an enthusiastic and well received United States tour, Ashley Cole and Micheal Essien, both former stars for Chelsea FC, the professional soccer club based in London, visited students at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem and later that afternoon met with members of the FC Harlem Lions at Riverbank State Park, where the soccer program engaged in a ceremony dedicating the first covered outdoor soccer field in Manhattan.

The multimillion dollar project, located below Riverbank State Park, is scheduled to have its opening in late summer or early fall of next year. It will be a welcomed addition to the expansive and well utilized facilities at the Harlem park. Among those on hand for the dedication were a number of local political officials and representatives from Riverbank State Park, as well as Irv Smalls, executive director of the FC Harlem Lions.

Cole, who was born in London and is currently a left-back for the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, took the pitch for Chelsea from 2006 to 2014. He played for England in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

Essien, from Accra, Ghana, was a member of Chelsea from 2005 to 2014. Now playing professionally for the Indonesian club Persib Bandung, he represented Ghana in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Toting the Premiere League Trophy, Cole and Essien took part in an exclusive viewing party of the Liverpool versus Chelsea game this past weekend and met with fans at the Fulton Market Building at the South Street Seaport.

chelseafc.com: Chelsea in New York

Below is an edited version of an original article published on chelseafc.com
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Legends turn coaches in Harlem

By: Sam Few

Ashley Cole and Michael Essien wrapped up their trip to New York by joining the Chelsea Foundation for a special coaching session in Harlem on Tuesday.

The pair were special guests at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Manhattan, where coaches from the Foundation and our partner club, FC Harlem, were putting the kids through their paces with a series of drills.

What the Chelsea Foundation is doing is a brilliant thing, giving young kids a chance and trying to keep them off the streets. They are staying in the community, which I think is amazing,’ Cole said.

‘I grew up in a tough neighbourhood in London. Football kept me out of trouble, on the straight and narrow, and hopefully this is what we can do for them.’
—Ashley Cole, Chelsea Legend

After the session, they joined representatives from FC Harlem at the proposed site for our brand new Blue Pitch facility, a short distance from our partner club’s current home.

Ian Woodroffe, the Foundation’s international development manager, said: ‘This will be a field pulled together with support from local agencies – a space that can be used in the winter months that is covered, lit, and will enable us to do a lot more for the community here.

‘Our coaches are here working with the FC Harlem coaches delivering education and training, but also in the community coaching young players in schools around the area.

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‘Here in New York we work in around 20 schools and have coaches based on the ground engaging different communities and working with FC Harlem week to week.

‘Soccer is a big tool to engage kids. We want to develop them and make them better, but as part of the Lions programme with FC Harlem, there is homework support, enrichment, job and life skills to help empower them with tools to be positive citizens in the community and aspire to bigger and better things.’

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chelseafc.com: Chelsea in New York

Below is an edited version of an original article published on chelseafc.com
Click here to read the original post.

Chelsea in New York

By: Sam Few

Coaches from the Chelsea Foundation’s international department reunited with club partner FC Harlem during the summer to provide support for multiple soccer camps hosted in New York.

The Foundation teamed up with FC Harlem for the first time in 2013, helping to create community initiatives for young people in New York.

In the past year, the objective has been to make a positive impact on young people from the inner city and working together, the two clubs have successfully provided local schoolchildren with free training sessions to achieve this goal.

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Hundreds of players took part in the camps, with the Foundation providing special training sessions for FC Harlem’s under-17 squad, LIONS (Leaders in our Neighbourhood).

They appeared in their very first summer tournament, the New York City Cup Worldwide showcase, and enjoyed a successful outing winning all three of their matches to finish joint top of the group.

This event provided young, talented individuals with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in front of college coaches, with the main aim of the camps to enable the development of technical knowledge through age appropriate drills and game situations.

Training sessions were also held for players to improve their skills, plus small-sided games and tournaments to help improve teamwork.

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Chelsea FC and FC Harlem were hugely proud to provide their first girls-only soccer camp too, with the clubs inviting beginner and intermediate players from the local community to get involved with this exciting new programme.

Chris Woodward, senior logistics and operations officer for the Foundation, said: ‘This is our second year running summer programmes with our partner FC Harlem, by offering young people summer soccer camps to the local communities of Harlem and the wider communities of New York.

‘This summer has been a huge success engaging with over 300 players through soccer camps and offering a variety of free soccer initiatives with schools, the Police Athletics League and Children’s Aid Society who are partners of FC Harlem.

‘It has been fantastic to engage for seven weeks across the summer and give back to the children of Harlem by providing these soccer initiatives which is dominated by a number of other sports.

‘Our partnership with FC Harlem allows us to provide and spread the love of soccer throughout New York, and we will be continuing the soccer development during the fall by having our Chelsea Foundation staff out in New York.’

Coaches from the Foundation, who all hold valid DBS, FA Coaching, Safeguarding Children, and First Aid certificates to ensure the highest levels of both coaching and safety, also reached out to their partners in the surrounding communities, with visits to the Children’s Aid Society and PAL (Polices Athletics League) who were given soccer camp support through their own facilities.

Chelsea FC, Wipro and Designit create Digital Player Cards with FC Harlem

Chelsea FC WiPro
Chelsea FC teamed up with strategic design firm Designit, Wipro Digital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to develop a digital design workshop for the FC Harlem Lions team. The team spent the morning in the classroom collaborating with visual designers, service designers, developers and Chelsea coaches to define concepts, ideate the elements of the design, and finally, to code players’ individual templates.

The FC Harlem players then took to the field to take part in a number of tests designed and measured by the CFC coaches to determine their key stats, to then be inputted into each of the players cards.

It was a great opportunity for the kids to get hands-on experience in design, coding, and to be exposed to the messy but rewarding process of creative collaboration!

The upshot is an individualized digital calling card for each participant. The cards, which can be seen below, are inspired by traditional trading cards, can be showcased on digital resumes, college apps, and more. The ownership the team took over their designs was an inspiring reminder about how powerful strategic design collaborations can be. Go, Lions!

This was an amazing event for our young men. Chelsea, Wipro and Designit brought together worlds of football and technology through a creative platform that really engaged our players.
Irv Smalls – Executive Director

FC HARLEM
U17 PLAYER CARDS

71
CB
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
ABDOULAYE DIAKITE
09.30.2000
77 PAC
90 DRI
69 SHOT PWR
80 SHOT ACC
60 PAS
54 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2017 High School Soccer Team
2016 Volunteer with Harlem Library
2014 - Present Honor Roll
68
CB
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
Adrian Rengifo
14.12.2000
4.27 PAC
69 DRI
66 SPWR
70 SACC
78 DRI
64 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
Player Name
Player Name
Player Name
3.5 GPA
120 LBS
71 IN
2016 I did something cool
2015 I saved the world
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasnt even born
70
AM
Team badge
🇬🇭
Player Name
Ahmed Owusu
03.07.2000
66 PAC
82 DRI
70 SHOT PWR
65 SHOT ACC
60 PAS
72 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
120 LBS
65 IN
2017 Honor Roll
2016 CJSL U17 "A" Champion
2015 MS 219 Community School Kickoff
2014 IYD DFOY7 Tournament Champion
67
CB
Team badge
🇲🇽
Player Name
Alexis Ayala
01.15.2000
74 PAC
80 DRI
48 SHOT PWR
65 SHOT ACC
64 PAS
68 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.0 GPA
111 LBS
62 IN
2017 Be Champions
2016 Perfect Attendace
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasn't even born
70
ST
Team badge
🇬🇭
Player Name
CHARLES OPONG
05.28.2001
82 PAC
70 DRI
64 SHOT PWR
70 SHOT ACC
70 PAS
70 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.7 GPA
120 LBS
69 IN
2016 PSAL B Division Soccer Champion
2016 Achieved Honor Roll
2010 I started playing soccer
2001 - Present I like to eat
79
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
Gerson Gonzalez
02.01.2001
87 PAC
70 TEC
58 SHOT PWR
90 SHOT ACC
82 PAS
88 DRI
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
115 LBS
64 IN
I was made captain for my school team.
I won the 2015 CSAA league.
I particpated in a tournament
with MLS & UEFA players
71
LW
Team badge
🇲🇽
Player Name
Luis Paredes
06.15.2000
87 PAC
68 PAS
76 TEC
66 S.PWR
70 S.ACC
84 DRI
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2016 I did something cool
2015 I saved the world
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasnt even born
76
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
Marcus Aguirre
08.14.2000
82 PAC
80 DRI
67 SHOT PWR
70 SHOT ACC
76 PAS
78 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.3 GPA
145 LBS
71 IN
I was awarded the Raleigh Elk Award for academic excellence
I am graduating high school
with an associates degree from
Bard College in addition to my
high school diploma
69
RW
Team badge
🇯🇲
Player Name
O'WAYNE DALHOUSE
04.17.2000
60 PAC
72 PAS
68 TEC
64 S.PWR
65 S.ACC
78 DRI
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2016 I did something cool
2015 I saved the world
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasnt even born
67
CAM
Team badge
🇦🇬
Player Name
RICHIE ALEXIS
03.11.2000
90 PAC
85 DRI
66 SHOT PWR
65 SHOT ACC
62 PAS
66 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2016 Won high school championship
Plays attacking mid
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasn't even born
63
CDM
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
Scott galvez
05.07.00
79 PAC
74 DRI
65 SHOT PWR
55 SHOT ACC
68 PAS
52 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2016 I did something cool
2015 I saved the world
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasnt even born
65
LM
Team badge
🇬🇭
Player Name
Shanaza Agyemang
11.30.1999
75 PAC
86 DRI
65 SHOT PWR
60 SHOT ACC
66 PAS
68 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
150 LBS
64 IN
2017 I got the best girl ever
2016 I came back to playing soccer
I won an AU basketball tournament
I played AU Basketball for 3 years
71
CB
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
Yacouba Coulibaly
04.06.2001
70 PAC
80 DRI
69 SHOT PWR
70 SHOT ACC
60 PAS
54 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
170 LBS
71 IN
2016 - Present Model UN
2010 - Present Volunteer with Qutba
2016 Honor Roll
72
CM
Team badge
🇺🇸
Player Name
zakaria dukuly
12.22.2001
72 PAC
78 DRI
65 SHOT PWR
70 SHOT ACC
74 PAS
74 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
2.88 GPA
146 LBS
74 IN
2016 I did something cool
2015 I saved the world
2013 started playing football
1999 I wasnt even born
70
ST
Team badge
🇾🇪
Player Name
Abdul Alawdi
09.14.1999
84 PAC
70 DRI
71 SHOT PWR
70 SHOT ACC
70 PAS
70 TEC
X Action shots
X Action shots
X action shots
3.5 GPA
160 LBS
67 IN
2017 Met Abidal at Pier 40
2017 Passing all my classes
2016 Joined FC Harlem
1999 Started playing football

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC HARLEM LIONS U17 Team was treated to night of small sided soccer at Pier 40 in Manhattan with some of UEFA’s world football legends.

The UEFA Executive Master for International Players Program visited the US to learn more about American professional sports leagues. As part of their visit to Major League Soccer HQ, a pickup match was scheduled with MLS staff and former league players, world football legends and FC HARLEM players.

The invitation extended by MLS Commissioner’s Office gave 5 FC HARLEM players the opportunity to play along the likes of Eric Abidal, Christian Karembeu, Robert Pires, Rai, Jessica Landstrom, Your Djorkaeff and Alecko Eskandarian. The players had a chance to meet MLS Commissioner and FC Harlem Board Member Don Garber.

“ Wow.. I mean that is Eric Abidal out there…and I am just a few feet from him!!”
Abdul of FC Harlem U17. His excitement summed up the event!


FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

FC Harlem U17 participate in pickup game with UEFA Starts

MLS Black History Month Roundtable


During Black History Month, MLS invited five members of the soccer community to discuss race and the black experience in American soccer.

The five participants –Jozy Altidore, forward for Toronto FC and the U.S. Men’s National Team; Lynn Williams forward for North Carolina Courage and U.S. Women’s National Team; Greg Howard, a David Carr fellow at the New York Times; Irv Smalls, founder of FC Harlem, and moderator Kevin Brown — got together for brunch in New York City.
—————–

Filmed on location at Spaghetti Incident in New York City http://spaghettiincidentnyc.com/
Music by T The Human https://soundcloud.com/t-the-human

The Guardian: Can futsal deliver a world-class US soccer star from the inner city?

Below is an edited version of an original article published on The Guardian
Click here to read the original post.

Can futsal deliver a world-class US soccer star from the inner city?

Written By: Bryan Kay

The game in America is geared towards kids who can afford to pay-to-play. But the five-a-side game popular in Brazil could help develop the USA’s Messi

Photograph: Jan Kruger/Fifa via Getty Images
Futsal is popular in South America and Southern Europe, and many 11-a-side players developed their skills on small pitches. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Fifa via Getty Images

When Irv Smalls considers Harlem he sees a canvas of many hues. Art, design, music and sport: places like Harlem are where things emerge, he says. Smalls sees in Harlem the perfect example of the inner city as incubator of American creativity – but when he looks at that picture, there is something missing.

“How do you bring the inner cities into what has truly always been the global game but is taking off more here in the US?” Smalls tells the Guardian. It’s an argument at the heart of what might be wrong with youth soccer development in the United States.

“I think traditionally what you’ve found in this country, and I think might be pretty consistent around the world, is that inner cities are where you find a lot of your talent from the standpoint that a lot of creativity comes out of the inner cities,” says Smalls. “That doesn’t mean there can’t be a great player that comes out of the suburbs but there’s something to the kids in the city.

I think what the US has been missing is: how do you engage the kids in the inner city if you define the game only as 11-a-side, also where the structure has always been extremely pay-to-play.
—Irv Smalls, FC Harlem Executive Director

“I think what the US has been missing is: how do you engage the kids in the inner city if you define the game only as 11-a-side, also where the structure has always been extremely pay-to-play.”

The result might be plain to see at the very highest levels of American soccer: an often efficient US men’s national team but one often lacking players capable of moments of genius. It’s the burning question: when will a nation of 320 million produce a Messi or a Ronaldo? The more pertinent questions might be how and from where. One-time Penn State football star Smalls, now the executive director of grassroots soccer enterprise FC Harlem, believes a critical juncture may be approaching. And it involves the curious figure of NBA owner Mark Cuban and his low-key entry into the world of futsal, the game credited with helping mold Messi.

A five-a-side game played within tight confines with small goal frames and boundaries, futsal is generally referred to as the international standard of small-sided soccer: the sophisticate to traditional American indoor soccer’s brute. Small-sided games have long been considered the best arena in youth development, futsal their logical culmination.

The new Professional Futsal League, based out of Frisco, Texas, didn’t make much of a splash when it was first unveiled in early 2015. But when Cuban was revealed to have bought a principal ownership stake about a year later, there were understandably a few more ripples.

Slated to begin play in major American cities in 2018, details remain somewhat scant. There have been showcases involving top pro players from the world of futsal. Other NBA team owners have been fingered as possible PFL franchise owners. Top European clubs, too. Michael Hitchcock, the PFL president, declined a Guardian request for an interview, stating that news will be forthcoming in the New Year.

But for Smalls, the PFL proposition could be pivotal for youth soccer development in the US: the marriage of Cuban and other NBA team owners with top soccer clubs – reportedly including Barcelona – could be game changer, a marketing vehicle to the small-sided game becoming firmly implanted in the cultural conscience. Not replacing basketball, but complementing it. Smalls sees a unique opportunity for the global game to finally register in inner cities by showing kids that what they see on TV is possible on the streets with fewer bodies, in confined spaces. Street soccer. From where the greats came.

“By having a professional futsal league, what it also will do is legitimize it for the kids playing that already,” he says. “Even in Harlem where there is a large Hispanic community who traditionally play soccer … I’ve actually seen certain immigrants that you’d naturally know would play soccer but because of a limitation of space, funding or whatever, start shooting a basketball.”

FC Harlem help local youth players develop their skills on smaller pitches. Photograph: Roj Rodriguez
FC Harlem help local youth players develop their skills on smaller pitches. Photograph: Roj Rodriguez

Futsal is growing in popularity Stateside. In recent years, US Soccer made futsal a key part of its development academy system in the Under-13 and 14 age groups. But futsal’s popularity in South America and southern Europe is long-standing: it was founded in 1930 in Uruguay as a small-sided game for youths played on basketball-sized courts.

“There’s a technical part to the futsal game that definitely helps to develop skills, without a doubt,” says Uruguay-born Fernando Clavijo, who was part of the USAsquad at the 1994 World Cup and is also a former member of the US national futsal team.

“You touch the ball probably 100 more times than you do in an outdoor game. You have to make decisions quickly. You really need to be three or four steps ahead because it’s a small place to play,” adds Clavijo, who nevertheless retains some reservations about whether a pro futsal league can survive economically in the US.

His team-mate at the 1994 World Cup, Hugo Perez, who grew up playing street soccer and futsal in El Salvador, says the game should be introduced early. “Those are the ages I think are important,” the former coach of the US U15 national team tells the Guardian. He is currently working with the city of Los Angeles department of recreation and parks. “I’m telling them that they need to concentrate [on] futsal. From five year olds to 10 year olds. LA is big but I think if they do it’s going to be successful, it’s going to help our kids develop their technical skills much quicker and give them a very, very solid base so that when they turn 11 years old they will be able to perform in the outdoor game.”

Perez says it’s not just about developing better soccer players. He believes the PFL will also serve another purpose: it allows kids who don’t have the capacity for full-fledged outdoor soccer to see a pathway to an alternative professional playing career. A separate setup launched in 2015 known as Major League Futsal USAinvolves both pro and amateur teams, though minus the sort of cachet provided by someone like Cuban.

A street soccer culture can’t be superimposed on the US overnight, of course. But perhaps the spread of organized futsal is a nudge in the right direction. “For our country to really create the world name player, we’re going to need unorganized, kind of street soccer, unorganized futsal, players playing as much as possible, players playing pick-up and playing competitive and playing club,” Kraig Chiles, a US futsal team player, who currently plays indoor for the San Diego Sockers in the Major Arena Soccer League, tells the Guardian. “And right now we’re just not there.” For what it’s worth, Chiles credits his introduction to futsal as an adult with improving his pro indoor career.

Back in Harlem, Smalls admits soccer wasn’t his first love. He came to the game late. A tight end for the Penn State football team in the 1990s, he later worked in the legal affairs department at Major League Soccer. The 2002 World Cup led to a transformation in outlook. He went from being a relative soccer naysayer to possessing the zeal of the convert.

“I think the general critique from third parties who’ve watched the soccer of the US national team is lack of creativity, not the hard work,” says Smalls. “We will outwork anybody when it comes to team play. Our mentality of keep working to the end: you’re going to be in a dogfight with us. But start putting us up against – as we saw in this last Copa America – some of these South American teams, and they will just bop that ball all around us because we’re missing some of that creativity.”

He looks into a hazy future that sees the US host the World Cup in 2026. That team would be the proud bearer of a kid developed deep in the heart of the inner cities. It’s his dream. Argentina’s takedown of the US at last summer’s Copa America was the perfect illustration of futsal’s merits in this sphere, Smalls observes. “When everybody keeps referencing that game, do you know what that was? How we got beat? A lot of that individual skill, that technical skill you see? A lot of that is small-sided soccer. Futsal, whatever you want to call it.”

Perez lays out a similar vision with a more studied eye.

“At the young ages it’s easier to master the ball playing every day in tight spaces—that’s the key,” he says. Making mistakes, free from coaching input, liberated from tactical overload. Instruction can come later. “Because, at the end, soccer games are decided not by tactics a lot of the time — most of the time. They are decided by kids who are better, more creative than the other ones they are competing against. By one dribble, one shot, one feint — in tight spaces most of the time. But you won’t get that if you have a coach coaching kids from five to 10 and teaching them that they need to defend here, they need to defend there. That they need to pass all the time. No, give them the freedom to play football.”

FC Harlem Wins First Trophy in Club History!

2016 CJSL NEW YORK CITY U17 A DIVISION CHAMPIONS

FCHarlem_CJSLU17_2016Champions4

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).

I am very proud of my guys. They worked hard all season. We told them that if they stayed discipline they could win.
—Head Coach Anders Khan

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.

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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!”

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