PAHOKEE, Fla. — Members of a community in western Palm Beach County are trying to make a difference in their city's youth by playing the world's most popular sport.
Known as Pahokee FC, the team's volunteer coaches said that having a city soccer league has multiple benefits.
Not only does it keep the children active and give them something to do after school. But it's teaching discipline, keeping them out of trouble.
Anthony Paniagua and his teammates are part of Pahokee FC. They are happy that now there's one in their hometown.
"It's just fun. It gives you adrenaline. That is what I like about it," Paniagua said. "It gives me a lot of adrenaline that I don't find anywhere else in my free time."
"I had to go all the way to West Palm to play soccer because there wasn't really anything offered here," said Pahokee FC member Roberto Cortez.
The league was established last year because of the need and high interest.
Pahokee FC has more than 80 players that form a total 12 teams. The players are boys and girls ages four and up.
Right now, there are 12 coaches and four referees, and it's all run by volunteers.
Raisa Prieto coaches children ages four to six.
"When they come to practice, they don't want to leave practice. Once the season was finished, they were crying because they didn't want the season to finish, so we try to add more stuff," Prieto said.
Volunteers say more extracurricular activities will enrich the youth and guide them on a positive path.
"These are the future. … We complain about the kids, 'Oh, these kids don't know anything. They don't do anything.' But we are not spending time with them," said volunteer Esteban Cardenas. "So, how can we expect them to know much?"
"The more stuff there is, the more you keep kids out of trouble," said Pahokee FC member Alyssa Hernandez. "The more they are able to grasp onto tasks, not only can these tasks help them in their future lives, just as a simple thing can do so much for the community."
However, volunteers say they are in desperate need of support to obtain equipment and sponsorships to play against other local teams.
They said what's most needed is a city soccer field to play and practice.
On Tuesday night, some volunteers will ask the city commission to rally behind their youth.
"And assist them in whatever they can to get them off the streets. This is one of the things we can do as a community to help them do something and do those creative things and get them off the streets because it all depends on us," Josie Hernandez, Pahokee FC volunteer.