Over the past month, nearly 400 Somali kids and young adults have participated in the St. Cloud Somali Youth Organization's fifth annual soccer tournament.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
On Saturday, the St. Cloud Stars team beat Olympic Football Club 5-2 to win the tournament.
The teams are made up of high school and college students and some out of school, ages 16-25 years old, said organizer Farhan Abdi.
Twelve teams competed in the tournament, which started May 16. The tournament brought in teams from Fargo, Willmar, Marshall, two from Minneapolis and seven from St. Cloud.
Most of the games were free for spectators to watch. The organization charged $2 for the championship game at St. Cloud State University, with proceeds going back to fund the event.
"To the youth, it means a lot," Abdi said. With the end of school, the group's goal was to give them something to do, to keep them out of trouble.
"It helps them to engage," he said.
Besides having games at Apollo High School on the weekends, the teams will practice at the Whitney fields during the week.
"It means a lot to the family members. I get calls from moms and dads ... thanking (me) for providing a safe place, where they are enjoying themselves with friends, doing their own soccer thing," he said.
The event has gradually grown over the past five years. It started with six teams, expanded to eight teams its second year and to 12 this year.
The organization also encourages its members to volunteer. Whenever they meet, Abdi asks the youth what they've been doing to help the community.
"They have to go to neighbors and ask if they need help," he said. "They have to give something back to the community at the same time."
That could include volunteering with family and friends or helping out at the mosque.
The youth organization has other plans for the summer. They are helping with a Somali Independence Day celebration on Sunday at Lake George. They are also hoping to plan a Somali-American event July 4.
Later this summer, they're looking to have something where kids can do makeup classes for school work or do some homework to catch up, as well as get to know one another.