A Season of Firsts
The inaugural season of the Philadelphia International Unity Cup was a fanfare for all cultures. The day began with a tailgate-style gathering of the teams that participated in the tournament. The aroma coming from different food trucks as well as the different types of activities for children gave the feeling of a party-like atmosphere that you would see in other professional sports venues.
The beauty of this get-together were the different organizations that shared different parts of their culture. You were able to see the elegance of the Chinese White Lotus dance or listen to different types of music from the Ukraine and Ireland.
The festivities moved to Citizens Bank Park where it started with a youth soccer game. Teams Blue and White were comprised of players who represented all of the nations that played in this first Unity Cup season. Team white held onto their lead for most of the game, but team blue never gave up and in the 88th minute scored a goal that led to a 3-3 final score.
A special Naturalization Ceremony was held for sixteen people representing fourteen different countries. With Mayor Jim Kenney present as well as over 2000 people in the stands, each person raised their right hand with pride and took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.
After the march of the Parade of Nations involved in the tournament, the championship match between the Ivory Coast and Liberia began. The tension in the stands was noticeable. The roar of the crowd made a couple thousand people sound like a sold out stadium. Ivory Coast struck within the first eight minutes with a goal and never looked back.
The margin held throughout the game although Liberia had several opportunities to tie and take the lead. There were a couple controversial calls made by the officials that would have changed the outcome. As the final whistle sounded, the Ivory Coast ran to the stands waving their flag with pride.
After the mayor presented the team with the Unity Cup trophy, he mentioned to AL DÍA News how he enjoyed the game. “It was very competitive”, said Kenney “Great game, great action…It was a great way to kick off the Unity Cup!”
The Unity Cup brought many firsts to the city. The first city international soccer tournament that involved communities within Philadelphia that would rarely interact with one another. The first time a naturalization ceremony took place in a stadium as well as the first time Citizens Bank Park converted its field for a soccer game. With all these firsts, there is no doubt that the Unity Cup has become the start of new Philadelphia tradition of bringing brotherly love through the game of futbol.