Over at the City Parks Blog a recently highlighted topic really hit home for me as a soccer player / urban planning enthusiast. Soccer has for recent years, at least since I was a kid, become the quintessential sport for young people and for good reason. There are low introductory requirements for one: no extravagant pads to be bought, no huge height requirement to be good, and leagues are as numerous as ever for all levels of skill. Not to mention that soccer is the world’s sport, a fact that attracts people that have settled here from other countries.
However, the thing that I find most appealing lately, pointed out by the before-mentioned blog, is that soccer can be played anywhere there is some open space. This is contrary to the believe that soccer eats up the countryside near any suburban area and turns it into manicured and water-guzzling “fields of dreams” (the name for such an establishment near my hometown). Soccer is well at home is any sort of urban space where two orange cones can be set up and there are people willing to get outside and away from there computers – not that I am being the best example currently.
City Parks Blog also pointed me in the direction of the Urban Soccer Initiative. This D.C. based non-profit aims to “improve soccer pitch (field) accessibility in cities by bringing high-traffic , smaller sized pitches to urban neighborhoods where space for full-sized fields is limited or non-existent, and leading in the restoration of high-traffic urban soccer pitches that are in a state of disrepair. Hard top soccer, or samba, or whatever you choose to call it is an extremely fun way to get outside in a place that wouldn’t seem to adhere itself to outdoor sports. I spent many a Friday night in high school out at some warehouse that had three of these field set up for open play.
They state that soccer encourages pro-social environment for the community and that this sort of place attracts usage from lower income areas of the community. I counter that a dense urban space will attract those people who live around it – whether it is higher income or lower income people. Thus this becomes not just a tool to keep lower income (and lets just say it “more crime prone”) people off the streets, but a social catalyst for a exceedingly long list of other beneficial social endeavors.