Playing for bigger goals

Over 150 people from around the Diocese of California and the United States gathered in Gresham Hall at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, on Thursday, August 14, for a kickoff banquet celebrating the Street Soccer USA National Cup. 

According to Street Soccer’s website, Street Soccer USA “is sports for social change. Using [entrepreneurial instincts] as well as evidence based practices, [they] make a measurable difference in the lives of underserved youth in urban areas and special needs populations, including homeless families, adults, [and] people in recovery, among others.” Street Soccer USA is present in 16 cities around the US and is hoping to grow into other areas.

The welcome banquet was coordinated by Episcopal Charities, a ministry of the Diocese of California. Volunteers from St. Luke’s, San Francisco; St. Aidan’s, San Francisco; St. Mary the Virgin, San Francisco; Holy Innocent’s, San Francisco; Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; and Trinity + St. Peter’s, San Francisco all participated in the preparation of the food, serving as greeters or table hosts, and serving as wait staff for the evening. 

During dinner, Kathleen Piraino spoke about how honored Episcopal Charities and the diocese were to host the event, and thanked the volunteers who made so much possible. Lawrence Cann, president of Street Soccer USA shared a history of Street Soccer’s beginnings in Charlotte, NC, and how it has grown across the country. He shared that each city’s team has a crest that represents an ideal for which they play. His brother Robert Cann told of how his brother recruited him to join the Street Soccer USA leadership team as chief operations officer.

After Cann’s talk, representatives from different teams were invited to tell a story about their team’s impact on their lives, particularly through the lens of the crest’s impact. One man offered a story about how his involvement with Street Soccer helped him get out of a shelter and into his own housing. Another team’s representative shared how his team thought of each letter in their crest representing another word that motivated them. Their motivation kept them working and playing together as a team not just on the soccer pitch but throughout life, helping each other through struggles and celebrating good times together.

Following the dinner of green salad, rice, roasted vegetables, meatballs, and peach cobbler, players dispersed to their lodging before the games started at 1 p.m. on Friday, August 15 in Civic Center Plaza. More information about the tournament is available from SFGate.