Game 3 of the Premier League Campaign for Arsenal was horrendous and you've all probably read or watched all the blogs, podcasts etc about just how bad we are and the reasons why. Everyone has their own ideas and frankly we as fans have very little control over what happens at the club. We all wish we could impose a bit of our will on the board or managerial staff but we can't. So instead of having you read another depressing dissertation on the state of Arsenal Football Club, I've decided to talk about something else.
If you've been following the Queen City Gooners for the last few years, then you have seen us talk about Project 658 and the Street Soccer 658 Open Cup tournament. The QCG have participated in this tournament for three years and its been a lot of fun to play in. Each year we have added a team to participate with a full three teams entered. If you've never seen the game played, street soccer is a fast paced 4 on 4 (three outfield and one keeper) style game played on a court with some significant rule changes like no offsides and protected keeper areas.
I played keeper on team 3 and got a bit banged up because I decided to forgo elbow pads this year and it was a decision I regretted. Court burn hurts everybody. Despite this I always have a blast playing the game and watching others take to the court. With three teams playing under the lights of our Queen City, we had plenty of chances to watch our fellow Gooners compete for a little bit of local glory. Our Team #1 took home the trophy over Summit Coffee in a hotly contested final that saw us win 10-8. The trophy will be proudly displayed at Ri Ra’s in all its glory. A video of the finals is on the QCG Facebook page so you can see the game being played. For all the fun we had it is important to note what the Project 658 is about and why we support them.
Project 658 is a charity organization that uses Street Soccer 658 to improve the lives of the homeless and refugees in cities across the country. It is an opportunity to talk and support those from all walks of life. The organization is a beacon of hope for those families and individuals at risk. While having fun competing for local glory it is important to remember that the tournament is more than just friendly competition. It helps bring us together in the soccer community as humans. You get to talk to those from the homeless teams and learn their stories. You get a chance to meet new soccer fans, friends and competitors from years past. With the world news being sometimes bleak and horrifying, a moment of enjoyment playing soccer in downtown Charlotte with so many people shows us just how powerful the unity of the game can be.
The tournament has grown over the last several years with the Homeless cup and Corporate cups and adding a few teams to the Open cup, to the endeavor it was this year. There were 16 teams in the Open Cup and next year it could grow larger. As the game of soccer grows in this city it becomes more important to grow the community, the men and women at Project 658 with Street Soccer 658 show us all the tangible positive effects the community brings.
This community is reflected in the Queen City Gooners ourselves. We as supporters group have grown so much since the start in 2011. I remember sitting at the bar in 2012 watching college basketball when the bartender noted my Arsenal jersey saying “you know the Arsenal supporters group meets here?” I didn't know it then but that chance encounter has led me to some friendships that I value highly. Each year we at the QCG want our numbers to grow not just to be the largest group in the area but to be a place of camaraderie and friendships. We all share a great love of the Arsenal. We laugh at Tottenham, we cheer when Giroud scores a goal from an impossible angle, we yell in frustration when we lose. We all have our own lives but for those 90 minutes we are a community of supporters and a family to grow the game. Our numbers have grown tremendously and we love seeing new faces come into the pub. Week in and week out, win or lose, we want that pub filled with friends ready to chant, yell and share a pint.
When the team struggles, we struggle together. It's such a strange thing being a fan. So from one Gooner to you all: come on down to Ri Ra’s, meet some new people, cheer on the Arsenal and remember to always laugh at Tottenham.
Sorry for the more serious post but the with the abysmal start to the season I wanted to write something a bit different. The international break is good opportunity for us all to take a breather and hope the team can regroup and come back stronger.
Until next time. Come on you Gooners!
For more information on Project 658 visit www.project658.com.