Manayunk soccer club unifies players from all backgrounds

Soccer players in Manayunk gathered for some indoor soccer with a side of World Cup action Wednesday afternoon.

Starfinder Foundation, a youth development organization based in Manayunk that uses soccer as a catalyst for social change, hosted its annual turkey bowl tournament and a World Cup watch party for its athletes.

"For us, we know really well that soccer uniquely unifies people and creates a space for gathering," said Starfinder Executive Director Andrea Rodgers.

Boys Latin High School senior Zion Nwalipenja said he wants to play college soccer and dreams of a professional soccer career. Starfinder alum and recent Temple University graduate Jonah Saleem returned to the program as a coach and mentor.

"I’ve gone from little, quiet kid - scared to come here at times - now, this is my home and I kinda run the program," Saleem said.

The students come from different ethnicities and for some, English is a second language.  

"So, naturally, fraught with challenges from all over the city and this is a safe space for them," Rodgers said.

Despite different backgrounds, Starfinder is known as a place where friendships are made and bonds are formed through the love of the game.

The Starfinder program is open to all high schoolers in the area. There are about 60 students enrolled in the program right now, with room for more.

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