Article written by Cyrus Moulton
June 25, 2023
Read the full article here.
There was music, free ice cream and lots of dribbling, shots and goals at the opening of the Boston Unity Cup soccer tournament at William E. Carter Playground on Northeastern’s Boston campus Sunday. And all was enjoyed by participants representing multiple countries, multiple ages, and multiple communities.
“I can’t get him off the field,” said Eladia Romero, who traveled with her son Christian, 9, from Leominster, Massachusetts, for the event. “This is great.”
The Boston Unity Cup is a community celebration of the world’s most popular sport and month-long tournament based on the international format of the World Cup.
It opened on Sunday with a parade of nations, a street festival with food trucks, resource fair, amputee soccer showcase game, and a youth jamboree clinic presented by the New England Revolution and Special Olympics.
Northeastern University was the top sponsor of the tournament.
“Northeastern is a global university, which is just one of the reasons we wanted to be part of this global tournament,” Michael Armini, senior vice president for external affairs at Northeastern, said in opening remarks.
“I often have to remind my American friends that, because soccer is the most global sport, it is also the most popular sport in the world,” Armini continued, as the audience applauded.
Photo by Billie Weiss for Northeastern University
At the youth clinic, players weren’t quite at the level of Cristiano Ronaldo … at least not yet.
“We’re just starting,” said parent Hannah Wilson, watching her two sons at the clinic. “We’ve had pre-k seasons of soccer.” But Wilson, who has helped organize the event for years, said that developing skills was not the most important aspect of the day.
“I love the Unity Cup,” Wilson said. “Soccer is a joyful sport where everyone can play and have fun.”
Ian Martin, a coach with the New England Revolution’s soccer academy concurred.
“It’s about fun, inclusion and involvement,” Martin said in between enticing 4- to 9-year-olds to dribble around cones. “It’s about the kids; not really the soccer.”
But don’t tell that to Athan Benoit, 11. “I like the drills, the technical work and how they get you to work hard,” Athan said.
Deb Godbout, who organizes the community clinics with the Revolution, said that the organization tries to create opportunities for all communities for soccer—visiting different neighborhoods in Boston and beyond, collaborating with the Special Olympics and New England Cerebral Palsy Soccer, the United Services Organization and the Boston Center for Youth and Families.
“We want to make sure every kid—regardless of where they live and regardless of what community they’re in—have the opportunity to play soccer,” Godbout said.
Meanwhile, the diversity of the event was on display Sunday.
Caroline Foscato, co-founder of Boston Unity Cup, said that the adult tournament had attracted 24 men’s and eight women’s teams representing over 25 nations and ethnicities.
Ted Holleran and his twin 6-year-old girls came to participate in the clinic and cheer on friends playing with the Danish team. “You get exposed to how you can use sport to connect with people around you,” Holleran said. “Stuff like this is nice to see.”
And Nico Calabria took a break from stretching with the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team to describe the popularity of the “fastest game on one leg.”
“It’s the fastest-growing disability sport in the world,” Calabria said, noting he had been playing soccer on crutches since he was a little kid. “The biggest thing is we want to be seen as athletes, not inspiration. If you are really inspired, visit our website, support our cause and help get people involved in the game.”
Meanwhile, Christian Romero had come off the field from his second round of clinics and was watching one of the adult games in process. “I had a good time,” Christian Romero said.