Homeless Soccer Comes to the 5Cs

Pitzer College kicked off National Homeless Awareness Week with a screening of Kicking It and a Street Soccer tournament to benefit the L.A. Homeless Soccer team. The event, organized by Pitzer political studies professor Nigel Boyle and his first-year seminar class—”Soccer and Social Change”—was the first of its kind at the 5Cs.

“We raised about $2,000, about half of what the L.A. homeless team will need to travel to Nationals in Washington, D.C.,” Boyle said. This money was raised through T-shirt sales, player donations, a raffle for tickets to the MLS Cup Final, and faculty sponsorship.

The tournament came together in a hurry. The seed was planted in early October when L.A. Homeless Soccer coach Johnny Figueroa came to speak to Boyle’s first-year seminar. Figueroa is a great example of the power of street soccer: he participated in the 2008 World Cup in Melbourne and is now working toward his college degree. After listening to Figueroa, Boyle’s class got the idea of hosting a tournament similar to the actual style played in homeless street soccer.

“I was originally thinking about putting something together in February, but the students just ran with it,” Boyle said. Lilli Barrett O’Keefe PZ ’15 was one of the main student leaders behind the street soccer tournament.

Many students enjoy pickup soccer, so Boyle and his students knew that they had the potential to field multiple teams. The street soccer tournament drew players from all of the 5Cs. In addition, Boyle was able to draw two teams composed of day laborers through a connection with Pitzer’s Community Engagement Center (CEC). The cost per player was five dollars.

“There was some interest from local high schools about fielding a team, but it wasn’t able to work out. In the end, we had 12 teams, which was a good number,” Boyle said, pleasantly surprised by local interest.

The event began on Friday night with a screening of Kicking It, a documentary that followed several participants in the Homeless World Cup.

Kicking It was super dope,” Avery Raimondo PO ’15 said. “It’s often easy to think of all homeless people as fitting this one stereotype, but by bringing several stories together into one cohesive narrative, it really gave you a new perspective on what homelessness really is.”

After the screening, homeless activist C led a question-and-answer session with students in attendance.

The next day, the competition began. Homeless street soccer is played four-on-four on an enclosed court, but since that wasn’t available, the tournament was held on the basketball court at Harvey Mudd’s Linde Activities Center. Matches were five-on five, with seven-minute halves. Music in the background and good-sized crowds created a great atmosphere, and the set-up of the matches allowed for fast, entertaining play. Games got competitive and sometimes physical; a girl was bloodied by a ball to the face, and some matches featured lowered shoulders and raised elbows. In the end, a team of CMC students won it all.

“Hopefully, we can turn this into a regular event—maybe every semester,” said Adam Lewis PZ ’15.

Boyle was pleased with the turnout and excited about possible future opportunities.

“It’s great that we had this response after throwing this event together on such short notice,” he said. “For next time… we could look into sponsorship and get involved with local schools and teams.”

Boyle also expressed interest in further collaboration with Pitzer’s CEC and Pomona’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Looking even farther ahead, Boyle mentioned the possibility of building a dedicated street soccer court at Pitzer.

Boyle said that his students knew that there was a niche for a benefit soccer event because of the popularity of pickup soccer at the 5Cs.

“There are so many students who play soccer here… we can use that to contribute something positive. Soccer is such a common language… we can use that for good.”

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