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‘Closer Look’ Visits Soccer In The Streets’ New East Point Pitch

Soccer in the Streets Director of Strategic Projects Sanjay Patel and Director of Programs Tony Carter show "Closer Look" host Rose Scott around the site of East Point's new Soccer Pitch.
Soccer in the Streets Director of Strategic Projects Sanjay Patel and Director of Programs Tony Carter show "Closer Look" host Rose Scott around the site of East Point's new Soccer Pitch.
Credit Grace Walker

Back in 2015, Sanjay Patel had an idea: make soccer more accessible to Atlanta kids by building pitches, or soccer fields, near MARTA stations.

Since then, that idea has taken off.

Last year, the organization said it reached more than 5,000 players.

And, this October, Soccer in the Streets opened its third soccer pitch in East Point, which is located southwest of Atlanta.

On a recent afternoon, “Closer Look” host Rose Scott met with Patel, the current Soccer in the Streets director of Strategic Projects, and Director of Programs Tony Carter at the new pitch.

As “Closer Look’s” weeklong series, “Gridlocked: What’s Moving Atlanta?” comes to a close, Patel and Carter explain how their organization hopes to break down barriers to sports participation through using public transportation.

On Soccer In the Streets’ growth and goals:

Director of Programs Tony Carter: “What we try to do in the big picture is that, yes, soccer is the platform or the vehicle that we want to do things to help make our communities better. But, to see the actual change of the community and to see the energy or effort behind it, you can’t script that.”

Sanjay Patel, Soccer in the Streets director of Strategic Projects: “What we’re learning is that, for something that started as a soccer project at its core, has now become this connectivity piece where you’ve got social capital of multi-generations coming together.”

On equity:

Director of Programs Tony Carter: “Transportation was always an issue here in Atlanta. But now that we’re kind of hitting that issue of, OK, transportation won’t have to be a big hurdle for someone just to play the game of soccer.”

Sanjay Patel, Soccer in the Streets Director of Strategic Projects: “I never understood, when I came to America, why there was this cost associated to this sport that only requires a ball and should be open to everyone. It’s one of the ultimate equalizers. Anyone, from any socioeconomic background — whether male or female — can be on this field and play.”

On the new East Point pitch:

Sanjay Patel, Soccer in the Streets director of Strategic Projects: “If we go back to before the turf, this was totally just a dirt patch…And people would literally….just walk through the space. And, it was just an unused space directly across from the MARTA station…And here we are now where we’ve got — this is the same brand of turf that’s used at Mercedes-Benz’s field.”