In the now viral video posted earlier this week on Uptown Almanac adults from Dropbox and elsewhere can be seen insisting that a team of young soccer players leave the field because their team has a permit – one they had paid for.
“If you want to play pick-up, you play pick-up like the rest of us,” the leader of the youth group says to the holders of the paid permit referring to the system generally used when more than two teams want the field.
Later in the video, the young man suggests, “You gotta team, we gotta team, let’s play seven on seven.”
The adults declined. If some argue that it was a lost opportunity for tech workers, it was a clear win for the young soccer players. The refusal earned them a place on the political stage and on Thursday they took it.
Although Dropbox and some of the adults on the team had already apologized, little had been heard from the soccer players. That changed on Thursday when six of them arrived at City Hall to lobby for their cause –the right to use the Mission Playground’s soccer field without fear of being asked to leave by adults with paid permits.
Even before the hearing at the Rec and Park Commission started they had convinced officials to end paid permitting at Mission Playground, but they carried on, becoming the young front guard for a list of demands that the Latino Democratic Club drew up after talks with the players, their coaches and other non-profits.
Those demands include more supervisors at the parks to insure safety, equity in funding and district councils.
Gregory García, a freshman who goes to Mission High School, said they had been pushed off before and decided on that Thursday that it had to stop. “One day we were like no, we are not getting off the field, we are just going to stay,” he said. “They threatened to call the police and we said, ‘no, we are going to stay, we are tired of this, you guys just can’t just come and take our field. We’ve been coming here for a long time now, you guys can’t come with a piece of paper.’”
García said he had heard about the apology from Dropbox, but he would like more. He and his friends, he said, “want to have a meeting with them and sit down and talk about this thing.”
“We want action, we are tired of this,” he added. And that is what they were trying to get at City Hall.
“I hope you can see why we are so passionate about protecting our parks,” said Juan Gálvez, 17, who is a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School and has been playing soccer since the age of 5 including games at Mission Playground long before the cement became a friendlier turf.
“The day of the incident before they showed us the permit, they tried getting us out of the field with intimidation, a lot of verbal abuse and threats. At one point, someone in the video said ‘Who cares about the neighborhood?’ And the answer is we do.”
The teens agreed that the fields provide them the opportunity to relieve stress and to use their recreational time in a way they can benefit from instead of engaging in activities that become an obstacle in focusing on school.
One of the teens, Hugo Vargas, said “I love this city, I love where I live and I want our parks to be for us, not for any other corporation.
“We let them slide the first few times, but we had to stand up and do what’s right for this community. And it’s a safe park. Another thing I want to bring up is: if it wasn’t for that park, where would we be?”