Urban Soccer: a segue-way for equal access

 'Station Soccer' - Five Points MARTA Station

'Station Soccer' - Five Points MARTA Station

For years, soccer in the USA has been a predominantly middle/upper class suburban sport played by children. Up until the turn of the century, soccer was played by hundreds of thousands of children nationwide, but had yet to be considered a mainstream adult sport. Children involved with the ‘Jogo Bonito’ came from families with enough resources, affording them access to quality facilities and coaching. For these kids, 11-aside has been the norm.

However, all that is about to change thanks to many organizations, including ours, that seek to provide equal access to the sport to children that were usually frozen out. Through transportation, green spaces imbedded in urban areas and open doors, Soccer in the Streets has set its sights in leveling the playing field for inner city kids through ‘Station Soccer’. For that, it has chosen 5-aside programming.

The reasons for this move are many. To start, formative soccer is moving away from full size games/programming in order to help the children augment the number of touches of the ball and transitions. In turn, offering the distinct advantage of requiring smaller spaces in urban areas; which is at a premium in densely populated cities. The goal for these fields is simple:  accessibility for children living within those urban areas.

Taking place in a smaller pitch, 5v5 soccer promotes a much more technical style of play. On a larger field, size and speed can often compensate for a lack of skill, but in 5-aside soccer, personal ball control and fast ball movement are essential. This kind of style requires players to be much more creative in coming up with ways to get around their opponents, and to score on smaller goals.

All over the world, a great percentage of elite players come from lower income areas, while soccer is played - literally - in the streets, at any given interception in a particular neighborhood. In the USA, many children grown up with less opportunities to play soccer, which is the primary barrier to massify the sport.

Facilities to play have not traditionally existed in inner-city communities, and families have not had the resources or the access to transportation to enroll them in suburban programs. By creating urban 5-aside fields, soccer is brought to these childrens’ ‘backyards’. And although soccer is the hook, our programs go beyond the sport. Employability, mentoring, character building, community integration, and building social skills are some of the primary focuses of Soccer in the Streets’ holistic approach to education and community building through soccer; a method that will continue to be implemented in urban fields all over the metro area.

Urban 5-aside soccer fields grant children the opportunity to play in safe, accessible areas close to their home, even in unstructured capacities.

The first Station Soccer 5-aside field recently opened at Five Points MARTA station, with the idea that it would be a safe, accessible place for both kids and adults to play. Additionally, it would help to revitalize the Downtown Atlanta area. Bringing more people to the game of soccer in the more technical 5-aside setting will not only improve players’ skills, but will also engage more people in their communities, and build civic-minded communities around soccer.