How soccer united a local immigrant community
The City’s mission to bring together immigrant communities through a soccer tournament seems to be resonating with its target audience. The Philadelphia International Unity Cup, as it will be called, will kick off this fall.
“The Cambodian community is very excited and the tournament means a lot to us,” said Naroen Chhin, who was present at the tournament's official unveiling last month.
AL DÍA first broke the news of city’s plan to hold the Unity Cup back in March.
Chhin, a member of the Cambodian community, gave some historical context to what the sport means to them. It had a significant role in bringing peace between rival gangs in the 90s.
“Back then we settled in Philadelphia as refugees,” he said. “There was a lot of crime and tension as we moved in. Because of that we created gangs to protect our community but things got turned around and we ended up killing each other.”
Cambodian gangs were prevalent in the city during the 90s explained Chhin. The only way they were able to stop the violence was through soccer.
“During that time, one of the members of the Cambodian leadership set up a soccer tournament within our community,” he said. “Instead of fighting each other in the streets, he said, let’s take care of it on the soccer field. That helped loosen the tension in the community and created unity and peace.
Tournament organizers told AL DÍA that it did not take long before all the spots available for teams were filled up. After a week, Bill Salvatore of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department said, 32 teams were already signed up to play.
Going forward, the teams have until August 12 to decide their final roster, register their players and of course set up a practice schedule ahead of the tournament scheduled to begin in September.