Soccer

Lionel Messi Given 21-Month Sentence For Tax Fraud

Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after a Spanish court found him guilty of three counts of tax fraud. A court statement on Wednesday said the sentence could be appealed through the Spanish supreme court Judges also sentenced the Argentine forward’s father, Jorge, to 21 months in prison for… Read More

Messi Resigns Argentina National Team After Losing Copa América

After nearly a one-month long tournament, the Copa América came to an end with a re-match game between Argentina and Chile. History repeated itself Sunday night at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey as both soccer teams played head-to-head for the Copa title in its 100-year celebration. Similar to the 2015 games that were hosted in… Read More

Soccer Activism: American Millennial Is Making A World Of Difference In South Africa

This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com on June 9, 2015.  

By Linzee Werkmeister

Sam Stokesberry has taken her love of children, God and soccer across the Atlantic to the Western Cape region of South Africa and channeled it into something truly inspiring.

In January of this year, Stokesberry packed her bags and moved 7,672 miles away to Stellenbosch, South Africa. She is currently working for a nonprofit organization called training4changeS, where they focus on using the sport of Futsal to build relationships with the local youth to make a difference in their lives. Futsal is typically played indoors on a hard court and features five players to a side.

The ages of the participants currently range between 5-7 years old, but it’s Stokesberry’s hope to journey with them as they get older. Stokesberry works with the children after school twice a week and every other Friday for futsal league games.

“Our program includes social impact lessons and games that focus on issues such as gender equality, using your voice, discrimination, drug abuse prevention, anti-racism, violence prevention, HIV prevention, teamwork, and making wise choices,” Stokesberry said. “Our goal is to incorporate social impact games into our Futsal practices so we can create a safe learning environment that will keep the kids off the streets and out of danger after school.”

Stokesberry grew up playing soccer in South Florida. She was good at it too and played club soccer while at the University of Central Florida. After graduating with a degree in Sports and Fitness, she worked for several private strength and conditioning facilities including Primal Fit Miami and the Fast Twitch Performance Training.

She also coached soccer at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory at the high school level and at Doctors Charter School at both the high school and middle school level.

In 2012, Stokesberry first visited South Africa to attend a six-week International Sports Leadership Training Course hosted by the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and SCAS (Sport for Christ Action South Africa). She lived with a group of Americans who also attended the course, and then returned the following year as a co-leader. Stokesberry said that she knew then that South Africa would become her second home.

“When I first came to South Africa in 2012, I saw the great need there was in this country for change and empowerment especially amongst the youth. I also saw their passion and love for soccer which was something I could relate to,” Stokesberry said. “My heart broke when I heard about the obstacles that these kids were having to battle through, and I developed such a great love and compassion for them.”

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Sam Stokesberry watches a drill while working in South Africa as a soccer coach and mentor. Photo Credit: training4changeS

The following year in 2013 Stokesberry was given an opportunity to come back to the country and coach soccer.

“Being able to see the kids who were told that they would never amount to anything, become kids who now value their own lives and the lives of the next generation is a huge inspiration to me,” Stokesberry said. “They are setting a new standard and they are standing up against hate, indifference, and oppression. It’s been a huge blessing to witness the heart and life changes in these kids and amongst the South African coaches we hire on our staff. I am surrounded by some amazing overcomers and fighters each day I show up to work.”

Stokesberry currently works with six different primary schools in the Western Cape area, and each school is composed of a different demographic. The group, training4changeS promotes cultural diversity and a family-like atmosphere amongst the students and the staff which can be rare to find in South Africa because of deep standing racial tension.

In addition to working with training4changeS, Stokesberry is also partnering with Ambassadors in Football who work with juvenile inmates in Hope Academy within Drakenstein Prison, which is famously known for being where Nelson Mandela was held in the final years of his prison sentence.

The groups says that they focus on “Faith, Football, and Future” by maintaining a strict set of core values within the prison. They are a Christian organization who share the love and hope of Jesus through soccer, while also teaching the boys about character development and life skills.

Aside from her efforts through an athletic platform, Stokesberry works with STOP – Stop Trafficking Of People, which is an organization that fights against sex trafficking by raising awareness throughout Africa by hosting school presentations and outreaches for young people.

STOP is also in the process of establishing safe houses for human trafficking victims in the Western Cape area.

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Sam Stokesberry (C) is a soccer coach and mentor for young people in South Africa. Photo Credit: training4changeS

Back in 2012, at the FCA International Sports Leadership Training Course, Stokesberry made fast friends with Rencia Young, a South African who she now coaches alongside with for training4changeS.

“She’s a very passionate, loving and kind person. I adore her, her heart for people is pretty amazing,” Young said of Stokesberry. “She’s full of compassion and that’s what makes her so good in what she does, whether it’s coaching, handing out food to prostitutes or playing soccer with prisoners. I am learning a lot from her especially when it comes to compassion and love towards those who it’s difficult to love.”

Stokesberry said that growing up in South Florida helped prepare her for life in a diverse nation like South Africa.

“Miami is incredibly multicultural, and so is South Africa. But a huge difference is the amount of racism that takes place in this country,” Stokesberry said. “In Miami, I grew up in school surrounded by different languages and cultures and skin colors, but we were all equal and valuable. Women are also discriminated against when it comes to sports, so the young girls who are interested in playing lack the female role models and leaders to look up to in the industry. It’s a lot harder for a girl to succeed in sports than it is for a man in this country. For women, the opportunities just aren’t there…yet.”

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Cover Photo Credit:  training4changeS/Submitted

This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com.

Do People Really Give A Shit About The MLS?

By Jasmin Ouseph

Here’s some breaking news. Sports are a pretty big deal to many people around the world.

Worldwide, football (or soccer, as we Americans have coined it) indisputably ranks as the most popular sport according to numerous sources.

In the United States, however, soccer comes in at a mere fifth place (based off TV ratings and revenue generated by league), preceded by ice hockey, basketball, baseball, and American football.

The premier soccer league in the United States and Canada is Major League Soccer (MLS), sanctioned by the US Soccer Federation, the official governing body of the sport in America.

The mission statement of US Soccer reads, “to make soccer, in all its forms, a preeminent sport in the United States and to continue the development of soccer at all recreational and competitive levels.”

While gridiron football, baseball, and basketball are the preeminent American sports by general consensus, with others like auto-racing and ice hockey being more regional in their popularity, there isn’t a very defining pattern among the MLS’ viewership.

Among fans of the sport in general, opinions on the MLS specifically are mixed. The league is growing popular with young adults especially.

Kenneth Nti, a student at the University of Florida, believes that the MLS has “grown magnanimously from its birth within the nineties” and has the potential to establish a “soccer platform similar to those in Europe or South America.”

Statistically, at least, the MLS is on the rise.

A lot of that potential comes from the attention of international superstars that settle in the MLS upon retiring from Europe. Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard now plays for the LA Galaxy while Premier League and Serie A wonders Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, respectively, both play for New York City FC.

Others, meanwhile, simply lack an interest in the MLS.

Leon Peter, a student at Nova Southeastern University, finds that although soccer is his favorite sport, he doesn’t pay much attention to the MLS.

“The play is just sloppy, not as clean,” Peter said. “The skill isn’t as apparent.”

It seems others with similar opinions would rather stick to the Premier League, La Liga, and other European tournaments that see more training, more funding, and more resources overall than the MLS does.

The possibility of a home MLS-member club to support would create a great addition to the league’s fan base.

Given the immense popularity of the sport in Latin America, and the rich Latinx presence in South Florida, David Beckham’s supposed proposition for a Miami-based MLS club would likely be met with big interest.

Statistically, at least, the MLS is on the rise.

According to Amy Rosenfeld, a Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN who oversees all soccer content for the network (including broadcast of the UEFA Champions League, US Soccer games, and MLS), success for the league according to ESPN standards would physically look like higher ratings.

Given that the MLS is barely 20 years old (it was established in 1996, two years after the US first hosted the World Cup), its ratings are looking pretty impressive.

MLS national TV ratings have increased by 18% from the 2014 year average total.

Currently, ESPN2’s broadcasts are averaging 283,000 per game.

With the 2015 MLS Cup match last Sunday, featuring a 2-1 win for the Portland Timbers, ratings were up 4% for ESPN, 40% for Fox Sports and 3% for UniMas.

Soccer is the world’s sport, and it is slowly but surely on its way to becoming a bigger deal in the US.

While European league matches are still drawing on average three times the weekly viewers the MLS gets, that shouldn’t rule out the hope that the MLS will see a growing fan base and greater national interest in the years to come.

Cover Photo Credit: Ryan Knapp/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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Correction: 12-9-2015 1:37 AM EST- A previous version of this article had the wrong final score for the MLS Final. The Portland Timbers won 2-1.

New Professional Club, Miami FC Announces Plan to Enhance South Florida Soccer

By Abel Iraola

While Miamians continue to be kept in the dark about David Beckham’s upcoming Major League Soccer club, a local team in the second-tier is hitting the ground running.

The Miami Football Club Miami FC was announced in May, already making strides to begin playing next April. The ownership group, led by legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini and sports media rights mogul Riccardo Silva, have made major moves to ensure success for the new club.

Last week, Miami FC announced the hiring of Alessandro Nesta as the club’s first head coach. Nesta, a renowned Italian defender like Maldini, made his name as a key player for Serie A giants Lazio and Milan before heading to Montreal for MLS. They also hired Cesar Velasco to manage the team. Velasco comes with extensive experience in sports management, serving as director of communications, marketing and community relations for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Toronto FC and most recently, FC Dallas.

On Wednesday afternoon, Velasco held a Q&A on the club’s Facebook page to address supporters directly for the first time.

 

Although no major announcements came from the event, the general manager hinted that the new organization is aiming to make an impact in the often sports-averse Miami scene. The club hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of running a second-tier club in a country not yet used to following teams below the major leagues.

Issues that have troubled other teams, including broadcast rights, stadium deals and player quality and development, were addressed during the hour-long question session.

Velasco said that that the club is currently in talks with broadcasters. The “goal is to have all Miami FC matches available for our fans,” Velasco said. It is still unknown where the club will play, but they are in negotiations and expect to make an announcement in four to six weeks. FIU Stadium has been rumored to be the preferred site, and it was confirmed on Wednesday that it is among the locations currently under consideration.

Looking ahead to on-the-pitch decisions, Velasco deferred to Nesta when questioned about the expected style of play, paraphrasing the coach’s recent response to a similar question, which indicated that he prefers an attacking style, however: “As an ex defender he will make sure he will have a strong defense,” Velasco said.

The club is looking at players both at home and abroad, and plans to make its first announcements within the next few weeks. They will also hold tryouts for local footballers in November.

Maldini, Silva and Velasco are intent on not only creating a successful club, but promoting the sport of soccer in South Florida.

Velasco said that a player development system is “a key objective.” However, he did not indicate whether that means they would follow an academy model.

Asked about Beckham’s MLS side, Velasco reiterated Miami FC’s support for Maldini’s former teammate.

“We support the project of the Beckham United Group to bring a team to Miami,” Velasco said. “This is great for soccer and all fans in South Florida.”

The front office remain confident that the club will succeed, drawing fans in Miami and across South Florida by building a championship-winning team. They plan to go full-strength into the NASL season as well as the U.S. Open Cup, the country’s domestic cup competition that spans all levels of American soccer.

“We believe in Miami and we believe in Miami soccer fans. We are building a club for Miami fans to call their own and be an active part of, hence ‘one club one voice’. We are working hard to build a championship caliber team for our city.”

The NASL’s spring season begins in April 2016.

Cover Photo Credit: miamifc.com

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