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US Soccer Unites Immigrants


This year's World Cup in Germany rekindled American interest in soccer. However, many immigrant communities in the U.S. have long been devoted to it. In New York City, for instance, immigrant communities have long played soccer -- both to pass the time and also to break down language barriers. VOA's Jim Bertel narrates.

New York City's Chinatown is a popular attraction for tourists from around the world. One local park there is home to a melting pot of Americans from all different cultures and races.

The people here come from all over the world. They are united in their love for soccer -- a sport that is extremely popular throughout the world, but it still searching for broader appeal in the United States.

Ryota Habu is from Japan and is a regular player at the park. "This is I think a universal place. Many people from different countries. Without the language we can communicate by playing soccer, so that's what I like."

New York City is a very diverse city with a population that is 30 percent Hispanic, 26 percent African American and 10 percent Asian. Many are new immigrants to the U. S. and their shared passion for soccer helps them overcome language barriers.

Another game is being played in the East Village, near the East River. Many of the players are of Eastern European descent. Mikael Illiev is originally from Bulgaria. “It's a melting pot,” he says. “It's very interesting. Much [more] so than American football or baseball. Because they tend to be one kind of person, one kind of ethnicity. Whereas soccer, you get all kind… Latin Americans, Central Americans, Europeans, some Americans, a lot of Asians, a lot of Africans, it's a nice mix.”

Adam Spangler is a soccer enthusiast who writes an online journal, known as a blog, about soccer. His website follows the current developments in U.S. soccer.

"I think the most interesting thing I discovered is really the growth of American soccer, and just how diverse everything is. I mean, diversity is always the big thing when you talk about American soccer just because you have all the immigrants coming to the States and what not.” Adds Adam, “But I think, that's been the most amazing thing to see how really there are no borders and no walls between soccer and people. It really brings out people together."

Spangler says soccer crosses the barriers among different immigrant communities because it is fairly easy to start a game. "It's a simpler game, because in soccer it comes down to all you need is a ball, and some space. Whereas baseball and football, other sports you need a lot of equipment to play those sports. And soccer, you don't because soccer, by luck almost, is able to bring a lot more people to play it at one time."

The diversity seen in soccer games played in the parks of New York City can also be found on the U.S. National team, which, like the make-up of America, is a melting pot of various ethnicities and national origins.

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