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High School Soccer Game in New York City Forced To Cancel Because of Migrants Denying Players Access to Field

A soccer ball is photographed next to Thomas Jefferson Park in Harlem, New York
Source: Konstantin Evdokimov/Unsplash, Deansfa/Wikimedia

The New York Post reported that a scheduled youth soccer game between two teams was forced to be canceled after a group of migrants on the field refused to leave despite the teams having a proper permit.

The Manhattan Kickers were supposed to face FA Euro New York on April 15th in Thomas Jefferson Park. However, when about 40 teenage players, their coaches, and a referee showed up for the game, a group of around 30 men reported to be African migrants with limited English skills were insistent on staying on the field.

“I directly asked them to leave and some of them kind of took it into consideration, but then four or five of them said, ‘You know what, f–k it, we don’t have to leave, we can do whatever we want,’” said Erik Johansson, the coach of the Manhattan Kickers, a 17-year-old boys travel team.

The cops were called to the scene to resolve the dispute and asked to see the playing permit. According to Johansson, it is atypical to ask to see proof of a permit in this way.

“When you show up with two teams in uniform, a ref and two coaches, usually nobody is asking to see your permit,” said Johansson.

In the time it took to produce a copy of the permit for authorities, the game had already been delayed by more than half an hour and the players of the teams did not feel safe participating.

“Even when the game is over, you don’t know if they’re waiting for you, so even if the cops kicked them out, it may not be over. So we just all agreed, this is too dangerous,” Johansson said.

Parents of the players have told Coach Johansson that the experience has rattled them. 

“It’s so frustrating that the guys who refused to follow the rules won,” said Maud Maron, a SoHo mom who has a son on the Manhattan Kickers. “That’s the message the kids got.”

According to the parents, some of the players don’t want to play on this field anymore. However, field space is limited and there might not be a choice in the future.

Youth football coach George Lanese reacted to a growing problem he sees of getting field space in New York City in a Fox & Friends Interview.

“A lot of people don’t have the perspective of what it’s like in New York City,” said Lanese, co-founder of Outreach U NYC. “It’s hard to get a field in New York City.” 

Lanese explained that urban areas have less field playing space, requiring a process of issuing permits to ensure everyone is sharing the space fairly. In suburban areas, there is abundant field space, so the use of permits is not as important.

In the interview, Lanese lamented that New York was one of the last places to open up sports participation again after pandemic restrictions. Now, even though games are back on, he feels “people other than kids are being put first.”

Lanese worries that kids no longer have safe places to participate in activities like team sports which are important for youth development.

“Your kids need an outlet. … Sports are great for learning team benefits, helping kids focus on school, focus on a career, we are losing a little bit of that dynamic, of not putting kids first and their needs first. We’re focusing too much on adult decisions and adult opportunities,” Lanese said.


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