The following article was featured in the June 27th issue of the Boston City Paper.
Action at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada is intensifying as the tournament progresses toward the final on Sunday, July 5th. So far, the game results have varied from exciting upsets to nail-biting ties to major blowouts. With 7 out of 24 teams making their first-ever appearance in the tournament, the range in results is not completely surprising. Despite these varying outcomes, there is a bind that ties all of the women competing: they are trailblazers for women’s soccer and gender equality in their home communities and on the world’s stage.
Here in East Boston, the Soccer Without Borders middle school girl’s team is taking notice. They are watching Colombia, France, Australia and the USA in action. They are learning new tricks and finding new role models. And, although they might not realize it, they share a lot in common with the women competing. They are trailblazers too.
The popularity of soccer in East Boston is clear. Walk to any field or open space in the community and you find a practice or a pick up game. What you won’t always find are girls playing the world’s game. Soccer Without Borders is working to change that. A non-profit with a mission to use soccer as a vehicle for change in the lives of newcomer youth, SWB has led programs in East Boston since 2012. The middle school girls team was formed in 2014 at the request of girls and their parents. Since then the group has flourished and popularity has continued to grow. Apart from practices and games, the team participates in team-building, civic engagement, cultural exchange activities and workshops. Together they have traveled to watch women’s college games and visit universities, participate in leadership conferences, run in 5ks and celebrate the International Day of the Girl. Soccer Without Borders does a lot to recruit girls and keep them engaged in the program. Participation is free, off-site transportation is provided, SWB leads gym classes at local schools, and there are many opportunities for families to be involved and get to know the coaches.
Today, there are 41 girls on the team, all of whom are playing soccer for the first time and coming from families where women generally don’t participate in sports. They have the courage to try new things. That makes them trailblazers too.
Claudia Cen, a mother of a long-time player recently what motivates her daughter to participate in SWB, “by experiencing things that, that perhaps she never thought she was going to experience- that she was going to play, that she was going to learn to play. I say that is where she gets her enthusiasm (for SWB).”