In the words of Chali 2na: “BAY……AREAAAAA!”
This piece by Chandrima Chatterjee. Find out how you can help the Bay Area Street Soccer USA team here.
There’s less than two weeks until the 2012 Street Soccer USA National Cup in NYC, yet there’s one team that’s been quietly yet diligently working away at practices, fundraisers and program building over the past few years and they are contenders both for the Cup and for the hearts of fans.
After all in their first year competing in the SSUSA National Cup, 2009, they won the coveted Leonsis Family trophy. Then in 2010, they came in 2nd place to a visiting team from Russia. In 2011, they placed 3rd. Now they have expanded to include men and women’s teams and they are sending both to the National Cup in NYC in less than two weeks.
From the moment I met the Bay Area team in 2011, I knew I’d love them – friendly, outgoing, spirited, natural team players and coaches. Frankly, their success early on and positive attitude, due in great part to director Rob Cann’s careful planning, training and persistence, led me to fathom founding a team in Philadelphia.
Watching Rob in his element this year during my trip out to San Francisco seeking guidance was eye-opening and inspiring. It’s rare to see someone fill the roles of mentor, coach, leader, director, friend and colleague so naturally and effortlessly. After all, his Bay Area Street Soccer van embodies his love and commitment for the program.
Their head coach Antoine Lagarde is no less remarkable, although I haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing him coach, I did have the luck of volunteering at the Homeless World Cup in Milan in 2009 where Antoine played for the USA team. It can sometimes be a struggle to remember all the players over the years, but he left me with the lasting impression with his immense skill and heart for the game. He went on to coach the National Team that competed in the Homeless World Cup in 2011 and is an integral coach of the Bay Area program while maintaining his job as a San Francisco Conservation Corps Teacher.
Antoine pretty much says it all with this quote back in 2009 while he was a player for Street Soccer Bay Area:
“Street Soccer USA has helped me empower myself and others by saying loud and clear, yes, I have struggled, I was one of those mentally ill people you see on the streets, but I wouldn’t trade my past for anything because whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”