It was Saturday, September 19th, sunny and 72 degrees at South Bronx High School. It’s the first game of the season for the South Bronx United U11 Select Boys Team. They’d be met at the field by their opponent from Portland, Connecticut (about a two hour ride). The opponent came in large numbers, which included players, coaches, moms, dads and siblings. They all wore smiles and were friendly and supportive to the boys on both teams.
The Portland team was grateful to South Bronx United for hosting the competition. South Bronx United was grateful to Portland for making the trip and, most importantly, for showing up with an abundance of love to share with both teams. The two teams lined up at midfield while one of the outgoing dads led us through the opening ceremony. Each player was introduced and cheered by the parents and coaching staff for both teams. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and the players shook hands before the game began.
It was 9 v 9, and both teams filled out the turf field nicely. South Bronx United got off to a good start with a few quick goals. Portland never gave up and eventually had a couple of goals of their own. While the score was never close, the sportsmanship and spirit of both teams remained high.
The score didn’t matter much. We all felt fortunate for the opportunity to play a beautiful game on a beautiful day with beautiful people. After the final whistle, both teams congratulated each other and shared a combined team photo.
The differences in backgrounds and cultures didn’t mean anything on the field. We were simply human beings connecting through the sport of soccer on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the South Bronx. It was a good day.
(Matthew Laffer recently joined South Bronx United as a coach for the Boys Under-10 Select team.)