<<Villager photo by Cat Cutillo
Rafael Marquez, from Mexico, a top player from FC Barcelona, tries out the new Sara Delano Roosevelt field with local kids.
Stars shine through rain at soccer field dedication
By Judith Stiles
Without a permit, playing pickup soccer games in New York City often means settling for asphalt surfaces, wedged in between basketball games, where backpacks are plunked on the ground in lieu of goalposts. This is why children of all ages are delighted with their brand-new turf soccer field on the corner of Stanton and Chrystie Sts., replete with yellow lines and six new nets. Nike in partnership with FieldTurf International Inc. refurbished this grungy park and transformed it into a place where neighborhood kids could get a chance to play joga bonita, aka the beautiful game.
Unlike other ball fields with artificial surfaces, the tiny black rubber beads sprinkled among the green artificial grass are not just bits of old truck tires. Rather, they are ground up particles from recycled sneakers that Nike collects to use for this purpose. This makes for great drainage, which Nike desperately needed in the sudden rainstorm that exploded with lightning, during the dedication ceremonies at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Soccer fans had packed this Lower East Side field to catch a glimpse of the superstars from the FC Barcelona team, including Ronaldinho, Etoo, Marquez and Messi. But not even the welcoming words of Deputy Commissioner Andrew Gould of the New York City Sports Commission could hold back the torrents of rain long enough to complete the ceremonies. The super talent of F.C. Barcelona Ronaldinho and Etoo actually were absent were introduced by actress Julia Stiles, who herself had suffered playing soccer on rocky dirt fields Downtown, over a decade ago. When the lightning and rain subsided, kids played small-sided games with the stars, and then fans went wild as the players tossed brand-new giveaway Nike balls into the crowd.
The resurfacing of Sara D. Roosevelt Park is part of a campaign by Nike and FieldTurf to create new soccer fields in 15 different communities in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
There are not a lot of open spaces in urban areas for kids to play soccer, said Nike spokesperson Morgan Shaw. She added that this new field for the community is part of the larger Nike Go Program, under which $5 million has been designated to also refurbish regulation-size fields in urban areas.
This five-year program was created in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to bring soccer to under-privileged areas, said Shaw.
And when the kids grow out of their sneakers, you can drop them off at Niketown at 6 E. 57th St., where the rubber soles will be ground up and recycled for another new field in town, a fitting reincarnation for the beautiful game.