The groups are drawn: Unity Cup closer to kickoff
With Copa América Centenario and the European Championship starting this month, this summer is shaping up to be a soccer lover’s dream. Not one to be left out, the City of Philadelphia is also preparing for their soccer tournament coming in the fall.
Last week, the city held the group draw for its inaugural Philadelphia International Unity Cup. Members of the teams, as well as Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials gathered at the Diamond Club in Citizen’s Bank Park to place teams in the groups they will play this September.
The 32 participating teams were split into the following eight groups of four:
Group A: Ivory Coast, Germany, Cambodia, Honduras
Group B: Congo, Lithuania, Indonesia, Argentina
Group C: Liberia, Spain, Myanmar, Colombia
Group D: Nigeria, Italy, South Korea, Jamaica
Group E: Senegal, Poland, Vietnam, Mexico
Group F: Sierra Leone, Turkey, India, Puerto Rico
Group G: Cape Verde, Ireland, United States, Haiti
Group H: Sudan, Ukraine, Bhutan, Guatemala
"It's important to hold events like this to show that Philadelphia is an inclusive, welcoming city,” said Kenney. “The spirit of competition, sportsmanship and respect is what this is really all about."
Team captains, leaders, players and supporters present at the event cheered when their teams were announced. Those present said they were anxious to get started.
“Once we got the email from [the Office of Immigrant Affairs] we knew that we wanted to compete,” said Gin Sum, Myanmar’s team leader.
Sum said his team is beginning to gather players and plan tryouts. Once they have a full roster they will begin practicing.
Some teams have already begun setting up exhibition matches in preparation for the tournament. Team captains and leaders were seen exchanging contact information after the event.
“The idea is to start practicing as soon as possible,” said Roman Chuprynyak, a representative from the Ukrainian team. “Many of our players have been playing together for many years, We have a league based in Horsham and so our players already know each other and how we play. What we don’t know is the skill level of the other teams. So once we start playing with others, we’ll know how to practice.”
Diana Ramirez was at the event representing Colombia and Guatemala. Her husband is a part of the Guatemalan team and she herself is Colombian. She said players on both teams are excited to begin preparations for the tournament.
“They had to work today, that’s why they couldn’t be here, but I know that they have already started talking to each other about who to add to the roster and when to start practicing,” she said. “It’s very exciting. I feel like something like this will be very good for the city.”
Luis Ayala, who was there representing Honduras, agreed.
“It’s a fantastic mission to get together all the cultures,” he said. “We’re already planning our team. We have lots of players who play in our local leagues here and some that have better experience in higher leagues. The interesting thing about this tournament is that there are no favorites yet as this is the first year. Of course there are some teams which many expect to do well, but nobody knows anyone’s strength yet.”
One of the teams that is expected to do well is Argentina. Mario Medina, team leader, said the team does not want to go in with any expectations.
“We of course want to do very well,” he said. “We want to be competitive on the field and give the best performance we can. Everyone on the team is excited to get started and to start practicing so we can be in our top form for the tournament.”