Racism on Your Local Youth Soccer Pitch

Youth shouldn’t need to face racism when they step on the soccer field, but it’s been part of the experience for many young athletes.

South Bronx United

(Photo Credit: Hakim Kabbaj)

by Andrew So, Executive Director

Spring is right around the corner, and for many kids and parents that means that soccer season is starting up again. Get ready for the smell of freshly cut grass or, if you live in a city, the cling of green turf shavings and black rubber pellets. Get ready for goal celebrations and heartbreaking losses. Get ready for superhuman parents and parents whose sideline antics make it desperately clear they are living vicariously through their children. Get ready for teenagers to again struggle with the balance of soccer, homework, studying, and more soccer. We hope that all this still leads to smiles on the field, at least most of the time. Soccer is a game, after all.

For the last ten years this has been my Spring — ever since I started South Bronx United, a nonprofit youth development organization that works with student-athletes, primarily immigrant youth and first-generation Americans, from the Bronx and Northern Manhattan both in the classroom and on the soccer field. The start of the season brings excitement for all of them. After a cold winter, few things are better than that first outdoor game or practice under the sun, when you can finally shed your layers and the winter’s doldrums. Of course, the new season brings stresses for kids, parents, coaches, and administrators alike, but most of them are par for the course — not enough time, too much laundry, impossible travel logistics, rising costs, how to convince a team of adolescents to just get along… There is one thing that is likely to come up at least once this season, for at least one of our teams from the South Bronx — one thing that I will never accept. Something that has absolutely no place in youth soccer, no place in any youth sport or activity.

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