Celebration Empowers Local Youth and Strengthens UAE-US Cultural Ties Through Sports
NEW YORK – July 18, 2017 – With the support of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates in New York and the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) hosted a street soccer festival on Saturday, July 15 in New York City’s South Bronx neighborhood. The festival brought together the community and nurtured the street soccer culture that has grown organically in the South Bronx. Known for its unstructured games and creative play, street soccer is played in streets and sandlots across the world and is an important part of Emirati culture. The event was organized through “City in the Community (CITC),” the charity proudly supported by NYCFC.
“The street soccer festival is special to the UAE not only because of the positive effects it has on the South Bronx community, but also because Emiratis share a strong passion for soccer. Our goal is to inspire children and encourage leadership and collaboration. It’s great to see those values come together today at the festival,” said His Excellency Majid Al-Suwaidi, UAE Consul General in New York. “I would like to thank Abu Dhabi Sports Council for making this event possible and NYCFC and City in the Community for their coordination and support.”
During the event, local youth competed in five-on-five round-robin tournaments on the blue mini-pitch at Public School 49 Willis Avenue (P.S. 49). The youth soccer players were organized into teams of children aged 11 and under and 18 and under. The festival was capped off by “celebrity games” with players from New York City agencies – including New York City Police Department (NYPD), New York City Fire Department (FDNY), Department of Parks and Recreation, and New York City Mayor’s Office as well as Emirati players who competed on the UAE Consulate team. Special guests included Jordanian soccer freestyler Motaz Al Qawasmi and Captain of The Good Life FC Bowery Premier League team Tim Brodahegn. Surprise appearances were also made by NYCFC team members including head coach Patrick Vieira, midfielder John Stertzer and defender Alexander Callens.
“Our Club is rooted in the five boroughs and we play home games at Yankee Stadium; the Bronx is home turf for us and we are committed to getting behind this community,” said Jon Patricof, President of New York City FC. “This festival continues our shared mission to expand access to free soccer in New York City and bring together the community through our sport.”
As well as playing in the tournaments, the soccer festival provided Emirati Nationals living in New York an opportunity to engage with the local community and share their love for soccer. Emirati students volunteered their time at the event, helping to staff the Consulate and registration tables, take photos and share information with event attendees about UAE culture.
“Abu Dhabi Sports Council is dedicated to supporting sports-based youth development programs worldwide that benefit local communities, empower youth and promote healthy living,” said Ahmed Al Qubaisi, Marketing and Communication Director at ADSC. “We’re proud to support the South Bronx street soccer festival and engage youth through the power of sports.”
In addition to the soccer tournaments, a community garden at P.S. 49 was unveiled during the event, built in collaboration with GrowNYC’s garden program. There was also live music, Emirati henna artists, an NYCFC skills station, and city agency tables offering social services and educational materials to bring attendees together.
“Today is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of playing street soccer in the South Bronx and tap into the growth of soccer in the borough,” said Paul Jeffries, Director of Community Development for New York City FC. “Giving back to the community is at the heart of everything we do, and it’s wonderful to see this community come together and put its own stamp on the game and embrace the mini-pitch at P.S. 49 so fully.”
The street soccer festival aimed to promote cross-cultural understanding between the U.S. and UAE, and expanded on previous work done by the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C., in partnership with NYCFC and CITC, to build soccer fields in underserved neighborhoods. In 2012, the UAE Embassy and City Football Group, the majority owner of NYCFC, unveiled a rooftop soccer field at P.S. 72 Lexington Academy in East Harlem, the first of its kind in New York City. Today, the program at P.S. 72 is organized and managed by CITC and serves over 250 kids each week through after-school programs, promoting healthy eating and physical exercise.
Since 2010, the UAE has supported a nationwide community soccer field program that partners with local organizations to provide quality playing fields in communities across the United States. Currently, there are ten soccer fields with two in New York City and fields in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
The South Bronx street soccer festival aligns with the UAE’s 2017 Year of Giving, declared by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to promote the culture of giving back to the community and enhance the spirit of volunteering.
About The United Arab Emirates
The UAE is a source of stability, tolerance, innovation, and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the globe. The United States and the UAE are reliable allies, with historical and present-day shared security and economic interests. In fact, the UAE is the largest export market for US goods in the Middle East and more US naval vessels visit UAE ports than any other port outside the United States. The United States and the UAE also enjoy growing social and cultural ties, and many US institutions in education, healthcare and the arts have formed collaborative partnerships with UAE entities.
About Abu Dhabi Sports Council
Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) was established in 2006 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Supporting Abu Dhabi’s leadership and vision, the Council promotes emirate-wide sporting events and helps talented and motivated athletes reach their full potential. The Council also supports international sporting events that align with ADSC’s efforts to foster a healthy, inclusive society through sports.
About New York City FC
New York City Football Club is an American professional soccer team based in New York City that competes in Major League Soccer. It was announced as the league's twentieth franchise on May 21, 2013 and is the first and only Major League Soccer Club located within the five boroughs of New York City. Majority owned by City Football Group, which includes Manchester City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F. Marinos, New York City FC plays its home games at Yankee Stadium, which is also home to minority owner, the New York Yankees. New York City FC is embarking on its third ever season in 2017 and has former US National Team captain Claudio Reyna as its Sporting Director and former World Cup winner Patrick Vieira as its coach, in addition to Designated Players: Captain David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Maxi Moralez.
About City in the Community (CITC)
City in the Community (CITC) – the 501 (c)(3) charity foundation proudly supported by New York City Football Club – was launched in New York City in December of 2014. With the support of fans, CITC uses the power of soccer to promote health, education and leadership development and create safe community spaces, where programming is free of charge for more than 4,000 young people each week.