A Photo Project by Cami Thomas
Featuring the outstanding young men of Pilsen F.C.
Pilsen, Chicago IL USA
Pilsen F.C. is a street soccer league made up of 18 young men from the Pilsen Chicago area. The latest demographic statistics put Pilsen at a population of 12,293 residents, with 70.7% Hispanic residents, 18.9% white, 6.2% Black, 2.6% Asian, 1.1% mixed, and .5% who indicated "other."
"I've been playing soccer since I was four years old. My mom said, "before you were crawling you were already chasing soccer balls" said George Gonzalez. George has been playing with Pilsen F.C. since its inception in 2013.
George is undocumented, and mentioned his relationship and process of being protected under the Dream Act.
"A couple years ago, a lot of people were being arrested on 26th street. A lot of families got separated, some people I know who had fake social security. And I know it’s illegal, but what else can someone do when trying to provide for their family."
"Being part of Pilsen is fun, there’s a lot changing. Me personally growing up, it was awesome. You bring a lot from your country to the community. Everyone speaks Spanish so you’re never lost. The food is similar."
"It's not the typical American place in Chicago."
"Back in 2013 we were just kids, 13, 12, 14 years old, we had all the time in the world to play. School was our responsibility, so we would spend all day in the park. Everything was so easy. Some friends were falling into gang activity, and this was something to look forward to."
George recounts that a local shop owner from the community, and a former semi-professional soccer player, took an interest in the young players. “He started training us and we started to take the sport real seriously.”
On the increasingly gentrifying Pilsen neighborhood:
"You see white people running now, jogging. A couple years ago you would see that and think, "they’re crazy, they’re going to get shot, get jumped. You're seeing people having picnics next to the courts. But it makes you feel more secure now I guess. I don't think the changes or the progress is a bad thing. There’s more people out here, more people watching.”