Saturday, December 9, 2023

W.S. International Soccer continues to inspire

By Joseph Cali                

            When thinking about sports to start young children in, most times parents fear the financial dread that comes along with them.

            The West Side International Soccer Club offers programs, whether it be a travel team or through public schools, around the West Side to help families provide a safe, affordable, and memorable experience on the soccer field for their children.

            The club was founded in 2012 by former University at Buffalo soccer player, Mateo Escobar and his wife Amanda Escobar.

            According to the team website, it  “uses soccer as a vehicle to provide a safe place to play, connect with mentors, break down barriers, and empower participants to become leaders in their community and their chosen life pursuits.” 

            Graham Vosburg, the vice president of West Side International Soccer, has been involved in the  program for 10 years. He said the program has changed and formed into what it is today over the decade he has been involved.

            “We were looking at walkable locations along the West Side," Vosberg said. "Probably 90% of our players were just from foot traffic alone. When I would drive there on Saturday mornings or afternoons depending on practice time, I would usually see the players walking there. There is really a neighborhood feel and to serve that neighborhood specifically is great.”

            According to Project Play, an Aspen Institute research initiative on sports and society, the average cost to start a child in soccer last year was $1,188. That is a large amount of money for an average family just to give their child an opportunity to play the game of soccer at the youth level. As they grow and need new equipment that number only increases from there.

            FC Buffalo’s City United Initiative works with any person or group who wants to bring free or cost-minimized soccer to the Western New York region and aims to elevate top underserved talents to the top teams and programs in the area.

            Nick Mendola, a writer for NBC sports, board member of the West Side soccer club and owner of FC Buffalo, said the West Side organization has been inspiring from the start.

            “West Side has been doing the right thing ever since they have existed," Mendola said. "Matteo, Amanda, Graham, and everyone there are just the sort of people that you want to work with. Frankly, I think one of the things about groups like them, who start and very much grow into what they are as a labor of love, working with them is very inspiring. The odds are all of the things that they want to do are worth doing.”

            Though Covid-19 shut down many programs, the West Side club live on, operating withint the Buffalo Public School system.. The leaders want to be as adaptable as possible with the West Side residents' needs. The organization  tends to be one of the more popular options for students within the district to pick from. Whether it’s a weekday or weekend program, they will continue to provide as much as they can for soccer lovers on the West Side.