CINCINNATI — When driving through the West End – you can’t miss it. TQL Stadium is huge, but the team it houses isn’t just a sports presence. All along, FC Cincinnati has said it’s going to be a good neighbor to the community – and a big part of that is working with local kids.
Laurel playground is the place 170 local kids come to get their soccer fix. The practice field sits in the shadow of TQL stadium by design.
There’s a double meaning to the words on 11-year-old Jasiah Murph’s jersey – West End Pride. You see, FC Cincinnati’s mascot is a lion – and we all know a group of lions is called a pride.
“You get to be with teammates, coaches and be around here playing with your friends,” Murph said.
Then there’s pride in one’s community.
“You show people what it’s like to be in this neighborhood,” Murph said.
Acknowledging the stadium by playing the sport that brought it to the area – and even sharing it. The FC Cincinnati Foundation supports the youth soccer cause by covering the kids’ registration fees, uniforms, equipment and after-practice snacks. It’s part of the local team’s commitment to making the West End a better place to live and play
“We’re here showing that we wanna be part of the community,” former FC Cincinnati player Omar Cummings said. “We wanna be good neighbors.”
Cummings works as an ambassador to the team and focuses on the next generation by helping to grow the youth soccer program.
“It’s about the future – 5 years, 10 years, 15 years down the line – hopefully have kids from this neighborhood in our academy, playing int the stadium,” he said.
Speaking of the kids – they were the first ones to play on the pitch at TQL Stadium.
“I’m a little jealous, myself. Having been a pro in the MLS, that’s still one of the best stadiums anywhere – and for the kids to have the first opportunity to play on it, I was like, ‘man,’” Cumming said with a laugh.
The kids were impressed, too.
“It was amazing,” West End Pride player Harmoni Dennard said.
Dennard’s mom, Thelma Little is so happy her daughter and all the other kids get to play.
“It keeps them active, keeps them engaged in the community, and we’re from down here,” Little said. “It’s exciting to have this type of opportunity available to them.”
In just five years, the West End Pride has grown to nine teams – with one co-ed preschool team. Like Cummings said – the hope is that one of the program’s kids will make it to the academy, which can be a pathway to Major League Soccer play.