Detroit City Futbol League Expands in Second Season

The Detroit City Futbol League kicks off its second season on Belle Isle, next Tuesday. WDET’s Rob St. Mary reports year two marks aggressive expansion and new community involvement beyond the soccer pitch.

It’s a breezy day in Brightmoor’s Stoepel Park. Kirk Mayes – the executive director of the Brightmoor Alliance – is gathering up some local folks for his latest leadership role… captain of the neighborhood soccer team.

_“This is a great community building activity… not only for our health and well being but for the comradary that comes out of team sports.” _

And Mayes is willing to admit, he’s not a footballer.

_“I feel like… how hard can it be? I mean, after the rules… you need to be in shape to run up and down the field and actually be competitive.” _

But not too competitive says Sean Mann, one of the organizers of the Detroit City Futbol League.

“We actually discourage die hard soccer fans. We’ve gone to even the point where I have created a competitive adult team on the side to kind of funnel those players so they can exert their athleticism and soccer prowess and not burden us with that.”

Well, if it’s not about soccer then what’s the Detroit City Futbol League all about?

_“Yeah, I mean excise and all… but more importantly is that sense of community and strengthening the city and just using this as community organizing tool and I think Detroit and our future is only as strong as our neighborhoods and so I thought this was just another community organizing tool that I thought we could utilize.” _

And this year, the league is basically doubling, from eleven teams last season to 22 and from 300players to more than 500. Mann says over the past year team members have come together to bring about change in their neighborhoods.

_“There are people in the Cass Corridor who are… art projects have come out of this. In my own neighborhood, Hubbard Farms, we’ve developed a more sophisticated neighborhood watch that never would have happened if it wasn’t for stronger ties… the fact that more of us neighbors know each other now.” _

And working on projects even helps during the games since tie-breakers are won through the team’s community service points not shots on goals.

Metro Detroit native Jacques Driscoll recently returned from San Diego with his wife to make a new home in Brush Park. Almost immediately upon settling in last fall, Driscoll says he started going door-to-door to start a neighborhood soccer team even though he has no experience with the sport.

_“I actually capped the team at 25 people… I thought that would be a good number. There was actually a lot of people asking to play that didn’t live in Brush Park… a lot of people from the suburbs and even people in the city but I was trying to keep it more community wise… so, there was another five people who came that lived Brush Park and I wanted to do my best to get them on the team.” _

In fact, Driscoll’s push to pack his team with neighbors is part of the league’s rules. Mann says under the guideline no captain can have more than five people from outside the neighborhood on their team.

_“Actually seeing these neighbors coming together and doing really cool things in their community and… at the very least… making new friends. There’s certain teams that are inseparable now and not only are they friends, they are neighbors and you can’t go to a bar in January without seeing this group of guys hanging out together. So, it’s pretty exciting.” _

This is the first year for Driscoll’s Brush Park team but he’s already started to work on efforts like running for the neighborhood council. Beyond that, he says just signing up teammates is making his community a friendlier place to live.

_“We go out and do community service… we go out and get drinks and everyone just wants to get involved and are just so happy to meet everyone around here.” _

Ultimately, that’s the point of the Detroit City Futbol League. But Driscoll says he’s not above a little braggadocio for his team.

_“It’s an obvious choice if you are betting. We have a couple of international players on our team. We also have a few people who have never played before but I think it’s going to mesh pretty well. All the ladies on our team are pretty talented as well. So, everyone better watch out.” _

Not to be outdone, fellow captain Kirk Mayes in Brightmoor says his team will be bringing its “A game” to Belle Isle starting Tuesday.

_“Brightmoor is going to let everybody know what it means to have pride in our city, what it means to have pride in our neighborhood. We’re going to come out and we’re gonna represent and definitely play by the rules but play hard.” _

And in the end that’s what the organizers of the Detroit City Futbol League are striving for – pride, teamwork and playing hard on the field and in the community.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News.

For more information on the Detroit City Futbol League - click here.