Residents of Syracuse’s Northside are about to get a soccer field, but they’ll have to wait until next spring. The new fields were unveiled at Schiller Park Tuesday. The space is large enough to hold two youth-sized or one regulation soccer field. The sport has been gaining steam throughout the city, thanks to its popularity among the refugee community. Mayor Stephanie Miner says she realized how important the game is to that community and that it was about time they had a field to play on.
“A couple of years ago on International Refugee Day, they had a soccer tournament here. And you could see, when they hit the ball, it would hit divots in the ground and bounce up in unpredictable ways. But nevertheless, they were still active in playing that.”
Despite those divots, Miner says the game still had a firm hold over the Northside community.
“I can’t tell you how many times I came over to this park and saw little kids playing on the playground over here, and the bigger kids and adults playing soccer in a field that really wasn’t totally appropriate for soccer.”
The new field will remain fenced-off over the winter so the new sod can take root in time for the field’s official opening to the public next spring. By that time, it will have been about eight years since the parks renovation was pitched to the Mayor’s Office by local business owner and refugee, Jai Subedi. He further emphasized just how dedicated the refugee population is to the game.
“Nine years back, I came as a refugee, and I played—a whole lot of time—soccer in the refugee camp. We used to collect the dirty clothes and wrap up with plastic and tie it up with a thread and make it like a ball, and we used to play around everywhere...”
Subedi was sure to remind the crowd that there have been refugee children in the past from Syracuse who played the game and have gone on to become professional soccer players. Senator John DeFrancisco secured funding for the new fields.