The UAE Consulate-General in New York and the New York City Football Club hosted a street soccer festival on Saturday, July 15th, in New York City’s South Bronx neighbourhood, to promote cross-cultural understanding between the US and UAE.
Held with the support of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the festival brought together the community and nurtured the street soccer culture that has grown organically in the South Bronx. Known for its unstructured games and creative play, street soccer is played in streets and sandlots across the world and is an important part of Emirati culture. The event was organised through "City in the Community", a charity supported by New York City Football Club.
"The street soccer festival is special to the UAE not only because of the positive effects it has on the South Bronx community, but also because Emiratis share a strong passion for soccer. Our goal is to inspire children and encourage leadership and collaboration. It’s great to see those values come together today at the festival," said Majid Al-Suwaidi, UAE Consul-General in New York.
During the event, local youths competed in five-on-five round-robin tournaments on the blue mini-pitch at Public School 49 Willis Avenue. The youth soccer players were organised into teams of children aged 11 and under and 18 and under. The festival was capped off by "celebrity games" with players from New York City agencie, including New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York City Mayor’s Office as well as Emirati players who competed on the UAE Consulate team. Special guests included Jordanian soccer freestyler Motaz Al Qawasmi and Captain of The Good Life FC Bowery Premier League team, Tim Brodahegn.
"Our club is rooted in the five boroughs and we play home games at Yankee Stadium, the Bronx is home turf for us and we are committed to getting behind this community," said Jon Patricof, President of New York City FC. "This festival continues our shared mission to expand access to free soccer in New York City and bring together the community through our sport."
As well as playing in the tournaments, the soccer festival provided Emirati nationals living in New York with an opportunity to engage with the local community and share their love for soccer. Emirati students volunteered their time at the event, helping to staff the consulate and registration tables, take photos and share information with event attendees about UAE culture.
"Abu Dhabi Sports Council is dedicated to supporting sports-based youth development programmes worldwide that benefit local communities, empower youth and promote healthy living," said Ahmed Al Qubaisi, the council's Marketing and Communication Director. "We’re proud to support the South Bronx street soccer festival and engage youth through the power of sports."
In addition to the soccer tournaments, a community garden at P.S. 49 was unveiled during the event, built in collaboration with GrowNYC’s garden programme. There was also live music, Emirati henna artists, an NYCFC skills station, and city agency tables offering social services and educational materials.