Every week, check out Freelance Friday, featuring a rising journalist who is (ahem) a few decades younger than me. See their take on . . . whatever.
By D’Mitri Chin
While the 2018 FIFA World Cup intensifies and excites millions around the world, Americans are left pondering what could have been. Their national soccer team didn’t qualify for the most captivating sporting event known to man. It wasn't necessarily the lack of talent that prevented Americans from being a part of this event for the first time since 1986. Gifted soccer players are throughout the United States, and they include African-American youth with a great passion for the game.
Many of them just can’t take part.
The issue is, soccer has become ridiculously expensive to play in America for a bunch of those African-American young people, as mind-boggling as that sounds.
A sport that consists of a soccer ball and any object that can be utilized as a goal is all that is needed for competition. That said, the better soccer camps have steadily increased their prices, and that has forced minorities to choose another sport. Of course, camps such as those run by FCBarcelona Soccer have prestigious coaches and trainers, and they must be justifiably compensated. Even so, when you consider the ages for players at these camps range from six to 14, asking parents to pay $499 for a week-long session is unbelievable.
If you think I'm overemphasizing the fact that soccer camps have killed the diversity of soccer here in the U.S., then take it from Hope Solo, a former U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper, two-time Olympic Gold winner and World Cup champion.
“Soccer in America has become the rich white kid’s sport,” Solo said in interview with politico.com, “That is why we are not one of the best countries in the world on the men’s side, because we have alienated so many people (due to cost).”
Solo has a point. America is the world’s biggest melting pot, and with soccer being the one sport that brings countries together (at least when it comes to competition on the field), it is disheartening to know that minorities in this country aren’t heavily involved in the game, mostly because their families are unable to pay the camp fees.
There's a reason those camps are so costly. Since many Caucasian parents can afford to spend thousands of dollars on sending their kids to them, the companies owning those camps have the freedom to establish ridiculous prices. Not good for African-Americans or Hispanics as a whole since they sit on the lower end of the economic spectrum. In fact, if you look at the big picture regarding the low number of minorities with the means to attend those camps and increase their skills, there will never be a change in the result of America’s chances of competing with the likes of Mexico, Brazil or even Senegal and Cameroon, who had magnificent runs in this year’s World Cup.
So the movers and the shakers of soccer in America should consider all ethnicities and tax brackets, because you never know. That strategy might help Team USA in the long run, especially in 2026, when America hosts the World Cup.
D’Mitri Chin is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in speech communication at Georgia State University. He is the former associate sports editor for The Signal, and he is currently a freelance sports reporter. He is also a contributor to The Douglas County Sentinel. In his spare time, D’Mitri enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball. You can follow D’Mitri on Twitter @1DMitriChin.