Lansing at Large: Lansing Soccer League builds cultural bridges

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Out on Peruville Road, about two pitches east of Van Ostrand Road, a group of middle-aged players from Lansing, Ithaca, Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Guyana, Chile, Croatia, Peru, Ecuador, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere gather on two pristine fields to play soccer on the weekends.


Then, the “aging weekend warriors” make their way into their clubhouse where a pool table, couches, and English Premier and La Liga soccer on big screen televisions go with barbecue, beer, and the love of the game.


Together, this experience is called Football Club Lansing International Futbol Association (FC LIFA), an adult soccer club for local and international players founded in 2015 by Roger Vargas. Vargas grew up in Mexico and realized his dream by playing his way through the amateur ranks before taking the field as a professional for the Albany Alley Cats.


When his wife took a job at Ithaca College, he was moved to buy the land and build the clubhouse for an old-fashioned soccer club.


“Perhaps the most interesting thing about the club is how many different countries and nationalities and walks of life are represented,” said member Shawn Goodman. “At any informal pickup game or tournament, we’ll have players from Mexico, Jamaica, Guyana, Chile, Croatia, Peru, Ecuador, Germany, and Russia.”


“Younger players from the colleges and high schools often get involved, too,” Goodman said. “During the workday, they are doctors and engineers and professors, carpenters and builders, teachers, businessmen, and farmers.”
Goodman said that the club has “become a powerful cultural and political bridge in our community.”


“On the pitch, no one cares about any of our differences perhaps because, on the pitch at least, we’re all brothers,” he said. “It’s kind of like old-time street games where we just pick up sides and play, often without even keeping score.”


Many of the LIFA members play competitively on teams at Cass Park and The Field but still make time to play the pick-up games and hang out at the clubhouse “because it’s fun, and allows us to experience the culture of the game more directly,” Goodman said.


There is also an official LIFA team, the “Finger Lakes Falcons,” that travels to play in (and win) tournaments.


Closer to home, Goodman said that “in the surrounding rural areas, there are large dairy farms that employ young South American men, many of whom live on-site and have limited access to family and social venues. The farm owners have started building soccer fields right on the farms to provide entertainment since almost all of the guys play and have formed their own teams.”


Language barriers and demanding work schedules limit their ability to find matches, however.


“Roger has invited many of these teams down to play with us, and we’ve in turn traveled to their farms to play and hang out after,” Goodman said. “It’s a weird and wonderful cultural exchange.”


If this sounds like your kind of weird and wonderful, you can learn more about FC LIFA at fclifa.com. You can try out the club for an afternoon or an hour on the registration page.


FC LIFA will kick off its 2019 season with a Champion League barbeque and pick up tournament at their fields on June 1 beginning at 10 a.m.

In brief

Lansing CDC Tech Boosters 90s Dance Party
The Lansing Community Development Campaign (CDC) will host a “90s Dance Party” featuring DJ Jon Koen as its annual fundraiser on June 8 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the John Joseph Inn.


The CDC has been raising funds for technology for Lansing Schools for 23 years. This year’s event will focus on the creation of a “maker space” for the elementary school where students will be able to increase their creativity and problem-solving skills within the curriculum and outside it.


Tickets are $50 per person. Dinner will be provided; there will be a cash bar and a dance contest.


You can buy tickets at brownpapertickets.com/event/4241373 and bid on auction items at charityauction.bid/techboosters2019.

Library offers Babysitter Training
The Lansing Community Library is offering the American Red Cross Babysitters Training Class for those aged 11 to 15 years of age at the Library on June 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $65 and scholarships are available.


The library expects this program to be very popular and there are a limited number of spots, so please call the library at 533-4939 if you are interested in participating. It is first come, first served.


Attendees are asked to bring a water bottle and a packed lunch that does not contain any products with peanuts or tree nuts. Snacks will be provided.

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