For Dot Youth Soccer, a World Cup tie-in

This year’s Dorchester Youth Soccer (DYS) league kicked off the new season on Sunday at Pope John Paul II Park with the usual suspects: kids in shinguards, coaches with mesh bags full of soccer balls, parents and eager little siblings on the sidelines.

But there was another presence at the opening session: Underneath a tent adorned with colorful balloons was an organization that hopes to partner with DYS and other Boston neighborhood soccer leagues as next year’s World Cup competition approaches.

Nick Montella, a student from Northeastern University, shared balloons with Dorchester Youth Soccer players Jaidyn and Jordyn Gross of Dorchester.Nick Montella, a student from Northeastern University, shared balloons with Dorchester Youth Soccer players Jaidyn and Jordyn Gross of Dorchester.

World Cup Boston 2010, a program supported by many of Boston’s civic organizations, is an 18-month campaign with a city-wide mission: to capitalize on the diversity of people that youth soccer unites through “educational, cultural and sports-oriented programming,” according to its project description.

World Cup Boston programs will include soccer tournaments, cultural festivals, community service projects, a reading program, and exhibition soccer matches.

At Pope John Paul II Park last weekend, volunteers for World Cup Boston handed out T-shirts and magnets to spread the word about the program’s activities.

Since the FIFA World Cup 2010 will take place in South Africa – the first time the African continent has hosted the Cup – much of World Cup Boston’s educational and cultural component will focus on that country.

Mary Tiseo, executive director of South Africa Partners, a partner with World Cup Boston, said, “[World Cup Boston] is a chance for neighborhoods to come out for one city-wide activity. We want to take the tremendous diversity that this city boasts and bring it all out and make everyone aware of it.” Tiseo said she is eager to see the programs take off in Boston. “This is a city of immigrants. We want to capture that story,” she said. Like the FIFA World Cup, “Boston has ties to every part of the globe. That’s something to celebrate,” said Tiseo. The theme of diversity in soccer, particularly Dorchester Youth Soccer, has been something that Adalberto Teixeira has embraced as well. Teixeira, who also works for Boston’s Centers for Youth and Families, has served as a coach in the DYS league for many years. He and a few members of St. Patrick’s Church in Roxbury started a team 13 years ago.

Since that time, Teixeira said the league “has always been pretty diverse. It has grown. The creation of the [soccer] clinics has been tremendous. There is always a lot of parental involvement; there are clinics for the families, as well,” he said.

The community nature of soccer is key to both DYS and World Cup Boston, said Makeeba McCreary, a volunteer with the latter program. “Different communities are linked by this sport that wouldn’t otherwise come together,” she said. McCreary noted that Brazilians mingle with Salvadorans and native Bostonians, and children and parents come together on the soccer field. Of this diversity, she said, “That is a really vibrant and warm gift to offer back to the city.”

Several Dorchester Youth Soccer families expressed interest in the World Cup Boston component. Ali Armitage, who had just registered daughters Sonjia and Maia for DYS, said, “We try to do more things in the community,” and World Cup Boston sounded like a “great chance to have fun.”

Deatrice Moore of Dorchester said her son Devan had shown an interest in DYS and had just signed up for his first season. As for the World Cup Boston program that she had just learned about, Moore said, “I am all for anything that makes a nicer community. It’s refreshing.”