The Philadelphia Union launched a foundation to help the city of Chester youth by incorporating life skills with the game of soccer.
Just over two years ago, the Philadelphia Union opened play in Major League Soccer as the league’s 16th team. As season three for the franchise has just begun, a new launch has come to fruition: the Philadelphia Union Foundation. The Foundation, a registered 501c3, will target inner city youth, particularly in the city of Chester, where PPL (Pennsylvania Power & Light) Park is located.
The foundation mission is to provide opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change in the areas of education, community, health and recreation.
“When the Philadelphia Union came to Chester, we put a soccer team on the field,” said Rick Jacobs, foundation executive director. “They attract fans from all over the state, the country and quite frankly in a short time, the world. What we’re looking to do now is take that inclusiveness and wrap ourselves around the city of Chester. This is the work that we’re charged with and challenged with.”
The foundation will work in conjunction with a number of organizations including, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, MLS W.O.R.K.S., Crozer-Keystone Health System, Widener University, and Chester City United, the city’s only club soccer team, which the Union helped launch along with several youth organizations in the Chester area.
Some of the future planned projects of the foundation include a playground build in Chester, health and wellness initiatives, soccer development programs and a series of fundraising events, including the second annual River Cup charity match between Union staff and the Sons of Ben.
The Foundation also lists its building blocks, which include the Philadelphia Union Foundation Giving Our Athletes Life Skills component that provides after-school life skills programming, the provision of safe fields for children to play soccer and the promotion of good health through proper nutrition and the physical development of soccer as a safe and fun after-school activity.
“We’re not talking about these kids becoming professional players, we’re talking about these kids changing a community on their own and changing their lives,” said Nick Sakiewicz, foundation founder and CEO & operating partner of the Philadelphia Union. “This is a matter of the heart for me. This is not about anything other than changing the city and changing the kids that are growing up in it; it’s the right thing to do.
“We have a community that is awesome. If we can just give the kids here some more opportunity, they are going to blossom into an incredible work force, people, husbands, wives, workers, employees, teachers, doctors. That’s something I want to see before I leave this earth.”
In 2011, over 50 percent of children in Chester under the age of 18 live below the poverty line, more than three times the Pennsylvania average. The high school dropout rate in the Chester Upland School District is 14.8 percent, over eight times the state average, according to a recent study.
The problems in Chester are significant, but Foundation chairman Mike Curry — a principal at The Vanguard Group who has served as chairman of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Board of Governors — believes solutions are ahead.
“When you look at Chester, I want you to look at me,” Curry said. “I want you to look at a person who could’ve easily gone down the wrong path. The difference for me was parents who cared about me, but most importantly I found sports, I found soccer. I found the passion, commitment and dedication.
“I want to be a part of this because I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for programs like the ones we hope to build with the Philadelphia Union Foundation. We want to give people a chance to be the best that they can be. And the potential is indeed there.”
Philadelphia Union player Danny Califf is just one of the players who will be working with the foundation. He believes the foundation will help inspire kids off the field.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this,” he said. “Soccer has allowed me to travel, learn about different cultures, and different people. It’s given me and my family so much. Now that I’m in a place like Philadelphia and get to play for the Union, it’s a platform. It’s a platform that I feel has enabled me and enabled us to reach out and help people, and help kids in this community, in Philadelphia and in Chester.
“I’m just so stoked to be here and use this platform to do something that’s bigger than me and bigger than us. At the end of the day it’s not about how much money you have in the bank, it’s about the lives you affect. Hopefully we can lift some kids up and lift some people up that aren’t as fortunate as we are.”
Five Philadelphia Union players will be participating in the U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team training camp. The team currently plays in its new stadium in the heart of Chester Township.
Freddy Adu, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams will again join the U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team as they train for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, U.S. Soccer.
The Union represents five of the 11 Major League Soccer players on the 22-man training camp roster. McInerney, Okugo and Williams will make their third appearance with the U-23’s this offseason, while Adu and MacMath will make their second appearance.
“This is a great testament to what we are trying to do,” said Peter Nowak, head coach of the Philadelphia Union. “This will be another great experience for all of the players, and hopefully they will all get to compete at the Olympics against some of the best in soccer.”
The Union has yet to have a player called up to the US senior national team, although Adu played during this past summer's Gold Cup roster, and was on the roster for the USMNT game vs. Mexico in Philly in August 2010, just days before signing with the Union.
The two-part camp will take place from Jan. 8-25 in Carson, Calif., and San Jose, Costa Rica. The first 11 days of camp will be spent at The Home Depot Center before the team travels to Costa Rica on Jan. 18 to play matches against the Saprissa Reserves on Saturday, Jan. 21, and Alajuela on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
“We get to play together every day, so we just carry things over from the Union trainings to here,” said McInerney, forward for the soccer team. “We combine well and play well together. You get to meet new people, but it’s good to have people here that you’re comfortable with.”
The January camp marks the third gathering of this group as the team prepares for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March. The first camp was held at the Sportschule Wedau in Germany in early November, while the most recent camp took place in Lakewood Ranch, Florida in December.
The U.S. U-23 MNT was drawn into Group A of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament and will face Canada, Cuba and El Salvador. The teams open group play from March 22-26 at LP Field in Nashville. The two finalists from the tournament qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.
“It’s exciting to see players from the Philadelphia Union to be participating on the national team,” said Devon Clarke, Chester resident and soccer fan. “I have been to a couple games of their games and what struck me the most was how talented the team was for them to be so young. They definitely are competitive, but they also have good chemistry with one another. Everyone plays their part. This honor is a good look for the players, coaches, team, and the city of Chester; I wish them well.”
CHESTER — The Philadelphia Union has reached a contract termination by mutual consent with star midfielder Freddy Adu.
Adu, who finalized the agreement on Monday, has signed with Esporte Clube Bahia, a Brazilian club, and the Union, in turn, acquired veteran Brazilian midfielder Jose Kleberson on loan from the same team.
Kleberson, 33, was on Brazil's winning team in the 2002 World Cup, and has appeared in 32 matches for his country.
Adu, 23, came to Philadelphia in August 2011 under former coach Peter Nowak. Adu made 35 appearances for the Union, scoring seven times with two assists.
"We would like to thank Freddy Adu for his service to the Union over the past two years," Philadelphia team manager John Hackworth said, "and wish him the best of luck as he continues his career in Brazil." – (AP)
Freddy Adu’s troubled time with the Philadelphia Union could be drawing to a close, and it could well present him with a unique career opportunity.
According to a report from Soccer By Ives, Adu is on the verge of sealing a move to Brazilian top-flight outfit Bahia. A transfer would give the embattled Designated Player a fresh start in a league renowned for its technical level and growing financial clout.
For the Union, the move would allow the team to avoid the unwanted possibility of having Adu occupy a DP slot and having his salary count against the cap while not playing for the club. The now 23-year-old signed with the Union in 2011, but struggled to find consistency despite the occasional flashes of brilliance, leading Union head coach John Hackworth to leave him out of the team’s plans for 2013.
A report out of Brazil Saturday claimed that the deal could actually be a trade of sorts, with former Brazilian international attacking midfielder Kléberson joining the Union in exchange for Adu. Kléberson, 33, has played for Atlético Paranaense, Manchester United, Besiktas and Flamengo in his career, and joined Bahia in 2012. However, he has found playing time difficult with the Tricolor recently, making only 12 since signing in July.
Bahia, based in the northern metropolis of Salvador, finished 15th out of 20 in the 2012 Brazilian Série A and are the dominant team in the Bahia state, having won the state championship on 44 occasions. Brazilian soccer is currently in the middle of its state championship, with the national league set to kick off on May 26 and run until December.
The Philadelphia Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.