Portland Futsal hosted the Portland Social Change Cup this weekend, an event jointly organized by the Portland chapter of Street Soccer USA and the Portland Community Football Club. The tournament was held to benefit the city’s homeless, refugee, and underserved population, with the two sponsor organizations splitting the registration fees.
The tournament featured teams affiliated with Street Soccer USA and PCFC as well as the broader community. Businesses such as the Port of Portland and Nike had employee teams registered. Tech firm New Relic’s crew made it to the co-ed final game. More casual groups also participated, such as the Portland Spurs Supporters Club, a Tottenham fan club, and Fatbol FC, whose members have used futsal to help get in shape.
The marquee event, dubbed the Unity Match, pitted the Street Soccer team against a Portland Community team that featured former Timber Jack Jewsbury, former Thorn Kat Tarr, and Multnomah County judge Chris Ramras. Zarek Valentin volunteered as coach of the Portland Community team. The Street Soccer team played well, but the former pros won the match.
Street Soccer USA
Event co-sponsor Street Soccer USA is a national organization dedicated to empowering underserved communities through soccer. SSUSA provides services primarily to homeless and recently homeless youth, but they also welcome other underserved youth and adults. Their method is to focus on individual empowerment through a structured soccer curriculum. While SSUSA hosts open play sessions, each session includes time dedicated to teaching problem solving skills and reflection on each participant’s personal progress.
Adam Lewis started the Portland chapter of SSUSA in early 2017. In just over a year, he has seen the organization serve over 200 people. He sees SSUSA as a potential bridge to other services, such as housing and education. By coaching and acting as a mentor to the youth players, he is able to identify behaviors that point to problems the players might be having. He then uses his connections with partner organizations to help solve those problems.
One of the big events that SSUSA co-sponsors is the Homeless World Cup, which gathers youth teams from around the world. This year, the Cup is being held in Mexico, and Lewis has earned a spot as coach of a team comprising youth from SSUSA chapters all over the country. The Street Soccer team that played in the Unity Match has been preparing for the Cup, and Adam expects at least a few of his players will earn a call-up to the national squad that plays in Mexico.
Lewis is also hoping to grow the SSUSA Women’s Initiative in Portland. The initiative aims to bring the power of soccer to Portland’s homeless and low-income women. They hope to help women, many of whom may be mothers, by providing a safe space, a support network, and child care during soccer activities. Like the youth framework, Lewis sees this as a connection to other services including rehabilitation, education, and job procurement.
Portland Community Football Club
Event co-sponsor Portland Community Football Club is organized like a more traditional soccer club but with the twist of having low-to-no cost registration. Traditional soccer clubs charge expensive fees to cover league registration, facilities, and equipment that price out most low-income families. PCFC founder Kaig Lightner developed the club as a response to this problem in 2013. PCFC provides low-income youth with a high-quality playing experience and openly welcomes LGBTQ players and coaches. Since its founding, PCFC has grown to seven teams serving about 80 players. On average, there are about 12 volunteer coaches. Lightner has been a coach for 20 years and did social work for 10 years before starting PCFC.
Like Adam Lewis, Lightner sees the role that organized sports can play in teaching youth about responsibility and empowerment. Their aligned missions prompted them to team up for the Social Change Cup. The event was well-attended and garnered a lot of support for their organizations - a resounding success. They expect this to be an annual event going forward. Youth teams that Lewis and Lightner coach faced off at one of the matches in the tournament. Both teams played with skill and determination to a 2-2 draw.
SSUSA and PCFC rely on volunteers to complete their mission. If you would like to volunteer as a coach, if you would like to donate, or if you know of someone who could benefit from their services, please visit www.streetsoccerusa.org/playforpdx/ and http://www.pcfc.co.