We recently hit the heart of NYC, Times Square to attend Street Soccer USA’s 4th annual Tournament for a great cause.
Teams from New York City and across the country, ranging in age from six through adult, competed in an exciting four versus four 15-minute match-ups in a specially-built Street Soccer Stadium in the middle of Times Square for the right to be crowned Street Soccer USA Cup Champ.
Street Soccer USA is a program with a mission to extend the benefits of sports to all by building fields, providing coaching and training, as well as education and employment programs to undeserved communities and homeless youth and adults.
During the tournament we had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Street Soccer USA Lawrence Cann. View our brief Q&A below. Included are also quotes from our conversation with Jean Shein, Uniqlo Director of Global Corporate Social Responsibility.
MTS: What was your Inspiration, how did the idea come about to start the Street Soccer USA program?
LC: When I was young my families house burned down, and it was a tough time for us for a lot of reasons, but you know sports was that constant thing during that time of turmoil. I didn’t have anything, my coaches would pick me up for practice, teammates would give me shoes, it was an experience, they were there for me. The idea behind Street Soccer is that we wanted to create the opportunity to play on a team, because in the U.S. frankly it’s expensive to play soccer and it shouldn’t be that way. Sports is an amazing tool that teaches social and emotional learning skills that are key to kids development, and it’s such an authentic way to do it and build relationships. It’s stupid to make price a barrier. Our vision is to create an alternative model, and we’re making good progress now, we got a long way to go, but were doing it. We started doing programs for homeless kids and young adults, and now we are really doing this community based initiative. In New York along, we have programs in Flatbush, Red Hook, Sunset Park and East New York, and they were all present today. It was really awesome.
MTS: How are the teams assembled for the soccer tournament?
LC: We have 16 corporate teams entered, and 16 open teams who entered. We put it out there, “prove yourself,” prove you are the greatest soccer team in NYC. It;s been awesome, high competition level, right now a team from Jamaica are the defending champs, they flew in for the match. The setting is amazing, the teams are competing hard, it’s fun to watch. For us its a social enterprise kind of play, we want to create an amazing experience, a pedestal to put our programs on, and a compelling environment where we can raise some money for what were doing, and not always depend always on donations.
MTS: We see Uniqlo designed the team’s uniforms, how did that collaboration come about?
LC: In San Francisco a friend of ours, Kevin Duffy wanted to introduce me to a corporation called Uniqlo, because they really want to help social problems in the city and their looking for the right partner. We met at their HQ in NYC, our energies clicked, and they provided the uniforms the 1st year for the cup, and from there we enlarged the partnership. This year Uniqlo did uniforms for all our coaches, and youth programs, it’s really cool. The players are proud to wear the jerseys.
“Street Soccer USA is a program that aligned with things we were doing, and displayed the same philosophies we have at Uniqlo. We believe anyone can do anything if they’re given the opportunity and the right tools. We like to partner with organizations that challenge people, and help them reach their full potential. That’s what we liked about Street Soccer USA.” -Jean Shein, Uniqlo Director of Global Corporate Social Responsibility
“What the participants are wearing, the product is from Uniqlo’s Dry-EX collection. That’s the super moisture wicking fabric that absorbs sweat. The uniforms our professional sports ambassadors wear (Novak Djokovic, Adam Scott, etc.) are made of similar fabric. -Jean Shein, Uniqlo Director of Global Corporate Social Responsibility”
MTS: Are there any future locations you’re looking to have the Street Soccer USA tournament take place?
LC: We’re looking at Chicago right now, we talked Minneapolis, Los Angeles, The vision for the cup series is to be a program that goes city to city. We would like to see Street Soccer USA become the #1 driver to build up our non profit.
MTS: For people who are interested in volunteering or interning for Street Soccer USA, how can they get in contact?