Soccer Day raises sport’s accessibility in New York City with 10 new mini-pitches

The event is part of the New York City Soccer Initiative, which aims to build surfaces in under-served neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.

A rainy Monday morning in the South Bronx couldn’t stop New York City’s inaugural Soccer Day.

It certainly didn’t stop 17-year-old Bronx native Emmanuel Amoh from enjoying it either.

Students from the Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science, P.S. X010, I.S. 584, and University Prep High School in the South Bronx joined New York City FC president Jon Patricof, sporting director Claudio Reyna, team captain David Villa, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and midfielder Alex Ring  in opening one of 10 new mini-pitches at 600 St. Ann’s Ave. They were joined by the  city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation Ed Foster-Simeon, and Roger Bennett of the soccer show "Men in Blazers."

“It’s at our school,” said Amoh, a senior at University Prep. “Our school being on TV — you wouldn’t expect any school from the Bronx to be on TV for any event. It’s amazing.”

The concrete mini-pitches, a part of NYCFC’s New York City Soccer Initiative, are as big as basketball courts with smaller-sized soccer nets. The initiative began in 2016 as a $3 million public-private partnership between NYCFC and its partners with the goal to build and maintain 50 mini-pitches throughout the city in underserved neighborhoods. The first 10 pitches opened last year.

“It means a lot, knowing that the city can invest something as big as this in the Bronx, where there’s so much poverty and so much struggle within families,” Amoh said. “It’s just so amazing, knowing that a beautiful field like this can belong somewhere like here in the Bronx.”

On Monday, NYCFC also opened four other pitches in the Bronx, two in Brooklyn, two in Staten Island, and one each in Harlem and Queens.

One of soccer’s biggest challenges in America has been its lack of accessibility, specifically in lower-income areas — a stark contrast to the game throughout the rest of the world. The initiative is looking to change that, making soccer as accessible in New York City as basketball.

“It’s important that they have a space to play and a safe environment and that’s what these courts provide,” Reyna told amNewYork. “We know in the inner cities in New York space is difficult to find and there’s a lot of sports and interests. We need to continue to have spaces and places that are accessible for kids to come and play soccer and this here provides it.”

Jeff Weisinger