The power of soccer

Brett Fuchs,

It was a sunny May afternoon at Pioneer Stadium. People from all over the world had gathered together with one common goal: to play the game of soccer.

Cal State East Bay had teamed up with the Soccer Without Borders organization to host a soccer tournament, Games for Hope, at the campus of Cal State East Bay. The tournament consisted of three teams, two from Soccer Without Borders and a third with students and professors from Cal State East Bay.

The tournament was created to bring students of different cultures together and play the game of soccer.

For a lot of these kids playing in this soccer tournament was not just another game for them. They were given the opportunity to play with the friends they have made through the sport they love at a college campus. It did not matter what team they played for or where they came from, these kids were able to communicate with one another through the game of soccer.

Soccer is more than just a game, it has the power to affect and change people’s lives. Soccer can bring people together from all over the world and unite them as one. This was the goal of Soccer Without Borders.

“The event was successful, especially being it was the first year that it was put on,” said Brandon Marcelino who played with the Cal State East Bay team and is treasure of the soccer club. “Three games were played, all of which were friendly but competitive.”

Soccer Without Borders began in 2006 with a goal to answer three critical questions that affect young people in underserved communities throughout the world. These questions were: to find safe spaces where young people feel cared for, have a voice and can experience the joy of sport, provide an opportunity for youth to actively explore social issues and community challenges, and provide social capital and access to potential opportunities for education, employment and personal growth.

Soccer Without Borders has four US programs with one consisting right here in Oakland which was founded in 2007. The program allows for refugees and immigrants to find a better life and help them get an education while using the sport of soccer to connect them with other people.

Soccer Without Borders provides these kids with the opportunity to play soccer as well as help them off the field educationally. They provide support for academic and language development and help prepare these kids for high school and college. They also help kids with team building skills and use the these skills to connect with one another.

“Soccer Without Borders allows for refugees and immigrants to find a better life as well as get an education,” said Matt Atencio who is a kinesiology teacher at Cal State East Bay and co-director for the Center for Sport and Social Justice.

Atencio organized the Games for Hope tournament on campus with Soccer Without Borders last May.

“Through sports, we can affect social change in many communities,” said Atencio.

The impact of Soccer Without Borders has not gone unnoticed. In 2017, Soccer Without Borders was awarded the 2017 FIFA Diversity Award.

The award is given out by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to organizations that use the global platform of soccer to promote anti-discrimination. Soccer Without Borders was given the award for their work in using soccer as a way to bring people together and to support immigrants and refugee youth integrate into communities in the United States and overseas.

Soccer Without Borders has made a positive impact for these kids with 95 percent of participants graduating high school and 92 percent going to a two- or four-year college.

Through this program, they are able to make a positive impact and may youth’s lives. They are able to help and change their lives forever.