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First outdoor futsal court in south St. Louis opens, with big backers

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ST. LOUIS — A new sports court opened Saturday in south St. Louis dedicated to futsal, a worldwide sport not yet well known here.

The court was pushed by area community leaders, backed by the new St. Louis Major League Soccer team, and is the first completed community project the team has promised to fund, build or help with.

“This is the exact example of what we want to continue to do to be an exceptional club and neighbor,” Khalia Collier, St. Louis City SC’s vice president of community relations, said to the crowd at the opening ceremony on Saturday.

Futsal, created in Uruguay about 90 years ago, is a fast-paced, small-court version of soccer. Many soccer players play it to improve dribbling, ball skills and reflexes.

The new court here, in the Dutchtown neighborhood’s Marquette Park, is the first outdoor futsal court in south St. Louis, if not the whole city, organizers said on Saturday.

The idea for a dedicated outdoor futsal court started more than two years ago, when Fred Maboneza, founder of the Umoja soccer club, soccer enthusiast Daniel Flynn and the Allies of Marquette Park met to discuss the idea, said Nate Lindsey, president of Dutchtown Main Streets, a nonprofit community development organization that helped the project.

The city parks department and other groups played roles. St. Louis City SC helped fund the court.

Maboneza said his team, which is mainly composed of immigrants from central and eastern Africa, had been playing soccer in the park since 2016. They had to go to a church in Ballwin in 2014 to play futsal on a converted basketball court.

The team played a demonstration game Saturday before Maboneza sent them off to train for a soccer game Sunday.

Members of the Umoja Soccer Club put on a demonstration at the new Futsal court, which was dedicated Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in Marquette Park in the Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis. St. Louis CITY SC teamed up with local organizations to bring the court to the park. Video by Hillary Levin,

The court was designed by artist and muralist Jayvn Solomon. Solomon consulted with local residents before coming up with the design, which incorporates the SC team slogan and colors with a local landmark, Cleveland High School.

“I want this to represent Dutchtown fully,” he said.

Boosters of both the neighborhood and the park hope it will be the first of more improvements.

Collier said St. Louis City SC is “looking for phenomenal projects with great leadership that already exists.” The team wants to support and amplify the projects, then bring its community coaches, philosophy and curriculum.

Collier said the team sees a soccer gap between St. Louis communities: “acres” of soccer fields in parts of St. Louis County and an almost complete lack elsewhere.

“You go into the city and you wouldn’t even know the sport exists sometimes,” she said.

With the Marquette Park court now complete, Collier said the team would remain involved. A new St. Louis City SC program will send community coaches all over the region to help with soccer skills training.

Robert Patrick • 314-340-8131

@rxpatrick on Twitter

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