Soccer field project bridges cultures

“Get on the line, get on the line!” Coach B.K. Hussain said multiple times to his club team Communality, calling the order with a warm grin on his face.

The young men aligned on the green turf and sprinted as fast as they could, all cheering in multiple languages including Arabic, Oromo, Somali and English.

Other players on the sideline, waiting their turn for the warm up, juggled soccer balls and stretched across the new NCAA regulation field in Elliot Park in downtown Minneapolis.

North Central University (NCU) and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) partnered to put in the high-class field for the community.

Hannah Solomon, a recent NCU transfer student, sat on the turf in October watching from the sidelines as the dual games were being played. With a slight smile, she said, “This has been one of my favorite parts of the move. I am adopted from Ethiopia, and it makes me feel a part of something that is simple, but has much impact.”

The soccer ball came with force toward Solomon, after she tossed it back, she described the new field as a unique way of unifying the community.

“I come here often to watch the multiple walks of life come together to play the game,” she said. “Ethnicities, religions, status’s all fall away when playing the sport.”

Michael Lower, a University of Minnesota associate professor of history who teaches a course called History of Football (Soccer), said, “Soccer is a massive global phenomenon that impacts communities all around the world, people used to say that more regions like soccer than others, however even that is beginning to break down huge chunks of the world that soccer is becoming a major sport, including Minneapolis.”

Fields being built are used by many people, but cater to essentially the immigrant communities coming into the Twin Cities, Lower said. In Lower’s course, he asks his students: What is the point of sports?

Having access to fields creates many different outcomes, Lower said, adding that positives include relationship building and learning how to compete in a nonviolent way. Soccer, he said, allows different cultures to come together, which he mentioned has multiple layers to it, but it creates team dynamic to bridge a gap in a healthy way.

The 6.44-acre park that cost $1.2 million to build has multi-purpose synthetic turf and is located between the Hennepin County Medical Center and NCU.

Jake Smith, NCU health and wellness director and head men’s soccer coach, recalled the
dusty, unusable softball diamond that preceded the new field as “virtually unusable.”

The park board first had plans to make a much smaller field, but NCU reached out proposed a partnership. Smith said “It is unprecedented for a private institution and the city of Minneapolis to partner in this way, so a huge learning curve, but largely beneficial.”

“We had a park board that cared, we had a university that cared, we had a county that cared, and we had a community that cared,” added Elliot Park Neighborhood Executive Director Lynn Regnier. “And everybody worked together to make this happen,” Regnier said in a statement.

“Soccer is dialect the whole world speaks, this new park gives an opportunity to get out and play. Elliot Park can be proud of this field, a healthy pride for the city, and provide an opportunity to understand one another beyond the sport,” Smith said.

The field is used by multiple club teams and youth soccer programs currently. To find more information visit:Minneapolis parks website.

 

Reporter Elizabeth Brumley is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to the Murphy News Service for sharing this story with us.