Charlotte World Cup Brings City's Immigrant Groups Together
FIFA’s 2019 Women’s World Cup kicks off in June, but Charlotte has its own World Cup this weekend, made up of mainly local players with roots from around the world. Soccer teams in the Charlotte World Cup will compete at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex on June 1 and 2. One of the tournaments organizers, Mikkel Christensen, says the local World Cup started in 2004 with only two teams, Sweden and Germany. It has now expanded to having teams representing 16 countries.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Now there are players from 16 countries. Tell me some of the countries.
Mikkel Christensen: Yes. So we have obviously the United States in it. We have Canada, Jamaica, Denmark, and Australia. We have Bosnia, Greece and Mali. And we have Liberia, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Iran. And then we have Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil and USSR. That's all the 16 countries this year.
Glenn: So, I guess this is a local event. Can anyone form a team and say they want to be a part of the tournament?
Christensen: Anybody can do it. The rule is that you have to have 80 percent of the players from the country you are participating in.
Glenn: So a tournament like this and with Charlotte having a large immigrant community, what do you think this does for the immigrant community in Charlotte to see something like this taking place?
Christensen: I think it does a lot when you come out there and you see all these 16 nationalities coming together and, you know, everybody put up a tent and a little camp area and we all mingle together and talk about soccer, life and just talk about the different countries and nationalities. Everybody is a soccer player during that weekend. And it doesn't matter where you're from we all have a great time. And we discuss anything that you can think of. And it's a really unique way of seeing all these nationalities come together.
Glenn: Tell me a little about the players. What's the age range of them and do most of them have experience playing elsewhere?
Christensen: Yes. So the age group is majority over 30 years old, but each team can have four players that are younger than that. And the rule is that those players that are under 30 has to be from that country. And you can only have two of those young players on the field at the same time. And it's very competitive. It's very high skill soccer players that we get every year. Some nations are stronger than others but it's very competitive. The 16 countries that I mentioned I would probably say 80 to 90 percent of all those are from Charlotte, lives in Charlotte and they are actually from those countries. So there's a huge diversity of people here in Charlotte.
Glenn: Now, I know part of what you do with your tournament has to do with raising money for various charities. Tell me who are you raising money for this year?
Christensen: Yeah. So this year is the same organization that we’ve done before. Same organization that we're trying to support every year, which is an organization called Street Soccer 658. They work with low income youth and adults and homeless people. They're using the game of soccer to get people that are struggling and having a hard time win in society and get off the street for once.
So these homeless people, they can come here and they can teach them. Obviously a bunch of other skills than soccer, but utilize the game of soccer to teach them how to work together. And all those various things that you can think of when you work as a team.
Glenn: And it's free to attend these games correct?
Christensen: It's free as a participant or as a fan to come out and watch. Everybody can come out. Yeah. So the only fee is to play as a team.