After playing on tennis courts, Cedar-Riverside footballers will finally have an official field in Currie Park for their favorite sport this fall.
Brazil had just crushed Chile 3-0 in a World Cup showdown last Monday when, 8,000 miles away in Minneapolis, some other footballers were striking, passing and sweating for their own little piece of glory.
But instead of playing in a mammoth stadium and fighting for the title of "Best Team on Earth," these Somali youths were fighting to be kings of a tennis court -- their only place to play soccer.
Not for long.
This fall, Currie Park is slated to become home to a new synthetic turf soccer field, giving the Cedar-Riverside footballers a lot more legroom.
While the teens played three-on-three tournaments last week, park officials and a translator described the plans at a meeting in the nearby Brian Coyle Center.
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Scott Vreeland said the field could be ready by September, thanks to a $295,000 grant Hennepin County gave by drawing on a specially designated portion of the sales tax that pays the debt on Target Field.
One large field and a smaller field for youngsters will replace Currie Park's bumpy lawn and tennis court. Other grants from the ballpark tax are funding similar projects across south Minneapolis, in Stewart Park, at El Colegio Charter School and in East Phillips Park.
County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin called soccer part of Cedar-Riverside's "21st century community" and said that East African elders have been concerned for years that children didn't have opportunities to play their favorite sport.
Players took breaks from the action Monday to point out the tennis court's flaws. Large, grassy cracks in the court trip players, who showed off scarred knees. A 12-foot fence doesn't stop wild balls from bouncing onto an Interstate 35W exit ramp, onto which the children inevitably venture to get them back, dodging whizzing traffic.
"We need space; this is too small," Omar Yusuf said while waiting with 20 other kids for a chance at the action. "Sometimes [there are] too many people, sometimes fighting."
Yusuf, 17, said he comes from Bloomington to stay nearby with relatives, and he plays soccer with his friends almost every night until 9 p.m. when he goes to mosque.
Several teens said they frequent the Edor Nelson Field at Augsburg College. But that's open only a few afternoons a week, and the school allows students to bring only one guest each, said Rebecca John, school spokeswoman.
So until the new turf comes, Yusuf and his friends will keep kicking it at the tennis court. But they're eagerly anticipating their field.
"It's the only game where I watch it and play it," he said. "That's the first game we play."
Alex Ebert • 612-673-4264Source: Star Tribune