PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A soccer tournament is being used to unify Philadelphians who hail from near and far.
The players, who represent 48 different countries, all now call Philadelphia and its many neighborhoods home.
But from September through November they’ll represent their native lands and the new neighborhoods as they battle it out on the soccer field in the second annual Philadelphia International Unity Cup.
“It’s awesome. It’s a unique experience,” said Roman, who plays for Ukraine. “It’s not every day you get a chance to play all these nations that come to play for their country. This is really exciting.”
On Monday morning, Lincoln Financial Field played host to Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials as they drew the team match-ups for the opening round of this year’s tournament.
“We want to make sure that our immigrant communities know that we appreciate them, we respect them and we want to make them part of our fabric of our community,and soccer is the best way to do that,” the mayor said. “It’s the international sport.”
And the fans and participants on hand were pumped up to get the action started.
“We’re so glad to be participating this year. We hope to be back in the finals.”
Officials say this tournament is about more than just soccer. They say it’s a chance to bring Philadelphians together and, at the same time, teach about diversity and inclusion.
“One of the nicest things we do here has been this, it’s been fun, it’s brought a lot of people together and they talk to each other now, different groups communicate with each other, they feel better about the city,” Kenney said. “That’s why we can’t have our police officers acting like ICE agents, because it would drive all these good people underground.”
And many of the players share the mayor’s sentiments.
“We have to come together and, you know, together we are stronger.”
The Unity Cup Championship Game will take place on November 11 at Lincoln financial field — with the winners taking home the much-coveted trophy.