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As Black History Month continues, we take a look at a new initiative that aims to bring soccer into underserved neighborhoods that never had a public field. The goal is to change who is playing the game and gaining opportunity from the sport; CBS2's Otis Livingston reports.
- As Black History Month continues, a plan to bring new players to the game of soccer.
- The goal is to change who's playing the game and gaining opportunity from the sport. CBS News Otis Livingston has the story.
- Botchie in the middle. Drops to Ferreira Real chance at a massive save. Tim Howard's back and he's back in a big way.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Tim Howard is recognized as one of the greatest goalkeepers in US soccer.
- That's an absolutely fantastic save. Look at that quick reaction, puts it out there.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Look carefully though and you'll see other players don't really look like him. In the states, professionally, and in some youth leagues, many of these athletes are white.
TIM HOWARD: The soccer community, particularly in under-served and underdeveloped urban communities, is lacking, you know, the leadership and the accessibility to fields.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: But now that may be changing.
TIM HOWARD: They want an outlet. They want an option and that's what we're here to do.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: It's a new program through the Player's Development Academy, PDA Soccer Urban Initiative. They quietly opened a brand new soccer field last August in New Brunswick. The formal dedication was in January.
- Soccer is becoming the most popular sport in New Brunswick.
KEITH JONES: We bring a local champion like Tim Howard too, who looks like us, is always something that is a plus.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Keith Jones is the Director of Human and Community Services for New Brunswick. He and Howard grew up in the area and know there are limited opportunities for kids of color to engage in the sport.
KEITH JONES: So we're working with houses of worship, we're working with New Brunswick Middle School, New Brunswick High School, some of our community groups.
- Too much time. Randy Foye-- [INAUDIBLE]
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Former professional basketball player, Randy Foye, also grew up in Jersey under difficult circumstances. Now retired, his daughters play for PDA. He's working with Urban Initiative too.
RANDY FOYE: With these initiatives and with these fills, it's just giving hope to the kids. They look like me and they look like others who had no hope.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: And Foye believes change can happen, even if it's one kid at a time.
RANDY FOYE: Sports bring people together. And can it change Black history? Can it change soccer in these urban areas? Absolutely. Because if basketball can do it for a kid like me that grew up in Newark, New Jersey with no parents, struggled from the beginning, they probably will take shape in a different sports, which is soccer.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Officials say the new field attracted local kids the day it opened. PDA coach and Urban Initiative founder Gerry McKeown is on board to change the profile of the game, offering PDA's total support.
GERRY MCKEOWN: We are the only country in the world where it's not a poor person's game. In our country, it's a rather wealthy person's game because of the tuitions involved and because of the logistics of getting across country and everything else.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Sportswriter Bill Rhoden says the game and society have a long way to go.
BILL RHODEN: I'm not so sure if the powers that be of soccer want soccer in the United States to look like the NBA and look like the NFL.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: But adds, it's an important step that at least a conversation has started.
BILL RHODEN: You want soccer to really look like the United States. I think that we're at least at the point where people are seriously asking that question. I don't think that we've seriously answered it.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: And once the Urban Initiative Program is fully up and running in New Brunswick, the plan is to expand to other areas like Newark, Trenton, and Camden and then to take it nationally. Tim Howard and Randy Foye, they were some competitive guys, intense in their respective fields and I know they're going to do their best to make sure this goes forward.
- Absolutely. Like you said, one kid at a time.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Exactly.
- Good stuff, Otis.
OTIS LIVINGSTON: Yep.
- Thank you.
- Thank you, Otis. And as Black History Month continues, you will see a series of stories here on CBS 2 News. You can also find reports on CBSNewYork.com.