ATLANTA – Seen from the street, this city’s Five Points MARTA station looks like any other subway stop – with the usual city smells, the rumble of cars, and weathered sidewalks.
But it’s actually extraordinary – internationally. A view from above explains why.
A five-a-side football pitch sits atop the city’s busiest metro station, transforming an unfinished community space that had been blocked off for years.
“Why not eliminate this [vacant space] and build fields in stations? Sanjay Patel wondered, after seeing children use the UK subway to get to games. “[We can] use the existing public transportation network to connect communities.
When he started pitching his idea to others, Patel said that “a lot of people thought it was a weird, crazy idea that probably wouldn’t come to fruition.” After all, it would be the world’s first metro station with a football pitch on top.
But he firmly believed in his so-called crazy idea – Phil Hill, executive director of Soccer in the Streets, an Atlanta-based youth sports program.
Hill runs the nonprofit, commuting underprivileged children to soccer games all over town – an area of work inspired by his travels around the world.
“I could put a soccer ball in the middle of a desert in Egypt or at a port in Turkey and start playing soccer with locals or kids,” Hill recalls. “It was an instant connection.”
But when he arrived in Atlanta in 1993, he quickly learned that the city worked differently. Hill said the private grounds – accessible only by car – as well as the high participation fee severely limited access to the sport.
In 2016, Soccer in the Streets introduced its first metro station pitch, dubbed Station Soccer.
David Sumpter is a professor in Sweden and analyzes the intersection of mathematics and football around the world. He applauded the Atlanta project, calling it a great use of urban space. “Football should be the most accessible sport because it’s so easy to play,” Sumpter told Fox News in an email.
He cited similar land to five sous a highway in Manchester, England. “The less space the players have, the better they improve technically,” Sumpter said.
People of all ages can take MARTA to the field for events, leagues, and pickup games, which are free for kids.
Rinah Gardner said that as a mother of three, the free programming has been a blessing for her family.
Another relative, Luis Nieves, agreed. “That’s why I come here,” Nieves said. “Because we don’t have a lot of money, so I come here because it’s a good opportunity to [my son, Yamil]”, Who dreams of becoming a pro.
The collaboration between Soccer in the Streets, the Atlanta United Foundation, MARTA and several local lighting and turf companies funded the project with $ 150,000.
The nonprofit plans to open nine more fields at MARTA stations across the city, one starting this summer.
“We can connect Hispanic kids in the North, African American kids in the West, refugee kids in the East,” throughout MARTA, said Hill, turning Station Soccer into League of Stations.
Jose Navarrete, 11, took MARTA with his older sister for a Sunday afternoon workout. This is exactly the kind of convenience Patel dreams of bringing families with the League of Stations.
“I’ll die happy the day I see kids on the train here in Atlanta with football gear to go play with other kids,” he told Fox News.
But gamers aren’t the only ones who benefit from Station Soccer.
Now, over a year after implementing the field, MARTA police have found that their main concern about safety at the station has in fact improved as a result of the program.
Amanda Rhein, senior director of transit-focused development, said that by placing more people around Five Points, Station Soccer has “deterred more negative activity.”
As additional fields are rolled out across the city, she hopes the same improvement in safety will be reflected in other stations.
MARTA hasn’t seen a change in ridership since implementing the land, but Rhein is confident that the development of the League of Stations will make Atlanta’s noticeably underused transit more popular.
Rhein said the fields are not permanent, but rather a stepping stone to another larger development project. However, that does not mean that the fields will all disappear after five years. She added that the transport agency could rotate the fields to different stations.
As with many “firsts,” Station Soccer caught the attention of the nation. Rhein cited dozens of inquiries from transit agencies, municipalities, and public and private planners regarding the land at Five Points.
The concept opens the sport up to people who never thought football was feasible for their children due to cost and transportation issues. And by expanding the pool of players, Station Soccer said it improves talent in the city.
“So it’s an exciting part, just as a football fan,” said Hill, “that we can play a huge role in creating a model” that maybe one day can help America win. world Cup.
But for Hill, improving America’s level of play is just a nice by-product of the program. The priority of the association is to improve the quality of life of children and “to open their eyes to what is possible in the world”.