Less than two miles from the epicenter of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, a soccer pitch has changed a neighborhood.
As The Guardian has reported in a fascinating four-part series on how the sport, race, and cities intersect, there are many neighborhoods like the one around the Algin Sutton field that lack places for African American kids to play soccer.
With financial backing from the United States Soccer Federation, along with the Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy, contributed $200,000 while local non-profit Brotherhood Crusade came up with another $600,000. In 2014, a full-size turf field had been constructed, along with metal bleachers, a fence and rows of stadium lights.
They hired and trained coaches, and bought uniforms and workout equipment. Brotherhood Crusade opened a summer school, offered tutorial services for classwork, ran classes about nutrition and even provided free healthcare for their families through the nearby St John’s Hospital.
“Some people just want to build a soccer field,” says George Weaver, the program director at Brotherhood Crusade. “What we are trying to do is build more than a soccer field. We are trying to build a community.”
On the day of the opening, something strange happened: the gangs stayed away. It was as if the new soccer field – filled every afternoon with coaches and kids – had created an invisible barrier. Algin Sutton had become a place they decided to leave alone.