A team of soccer players from a youth development program in Manayunk are playing futbol on the global stage this week.
With funding from SKF Group, 18 soccer players from the and two of their coaches are competing at the Gothia Cup in Sweden. The seven-day tournament, also known as the World Youth Cup, pits Manayunk's best against top youth athletes from around the world.
Kevin Galloway is about to enter his senior year at Academy Park High School and is from Collingdale, Delaware County. Throughout the year, he's participated in Starfinder's youth soccer and development program and is currently a globe away from his family, playing the sport he loves with 35,000 of his peers.
Does that make him nervous?
"Oh, not at all," he laughed. "This is a great opportunity I've been looking forward to it all year. It was worth all the hard work."
Jeanette Hibbs serves as the program administrative director for Starfinder. In 2010, she accompanied two kids and a coach to the World Cup in South Africa for youth education and soccer event.
Sure, taking nine times the number of kids across the world has its challenges, but Hibbs is confident that she and fellow coach, Stephen Jackson, can handle them—plus Jackson went last year.
Essentially the town shuts down entirely for the soccer tournament, with players staying at a variety of places—Starfinder athletes are housed at an elementary school classroom.
Hibbs thinks interacting with players from other cultures will be great for her team.
"There's so many different countries—we have games against Zambia and Sweden already—it's such an awesome thing to see all these different boys and girls," she said.
Starfinder was guaranteed three games, and depending on performance, the team could advance to the tournament's next round.
Sure, the kids are eager for the soccer, but Galloway said the trip's about so much more.
"Soccer is number one. But then, it's meeting new people—which I love to do—and also the experience of going somewhere new," he said.
While the team plays and tours the area, Starfinder members will interview their peers on video in order to put together footage for short films to align with World Peace Day in September.
The tournament price, housing and travel were funded by SKF. In addition, Starfinder and parents raised spending money for the trip.
Click here for more information about Starfinder.