Africans in the Bronx are coming together for another year of competition on the soccer field, and this year's African Nations Tournament has some new additions. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Soccer players from Ghana and Benin took to the field Saturday to play in the fifth annual African Nations Tournament held by the African Advisory Council.
The group was started by the Bronx borough president to address issues facing the African community.
Members said the event draws Africans from all countries despite ongoing conflicts in their native lands.
"Nothing can bring people together besides a party and a good soccer game," said Charles Cooper, chair of the African Advisory Council.
Every year, it grows.
"In the beginning, we had, I think. four countries for the first year, and the second year, we had eight, and then we had 12," said Bourema Niambele, co-founder of the African Advisory Council. "We had 16 last year. This year, we have 20."
What's different this year? Women played for the first time in an exhibition match before the men's tournament.
Former college soccer player Tanya Zondo pitched the idea to council members, and they gave her free reign to organize it.
"I was like, 'You guys are talking about the women. With the guys, what about the women?'" Zondo said. "So they were like 'Ah, OK,' smiling about it, and I was like, 'No, I am serious,' because there are women out there who are interested in playing soccer."
She called a couple of friends, posted about it on Facebook and gathered a group of about 20 women from various African countries, excited to play.
"I'm a big, big, big soccer fan, so I love to watch the men play, but I also want to play," said Arao Ameny, a member of the African Advisory Council.
Unlike the men's teams, though, who play on teams representing a country, the women played as two teams representing Africa. They hope this will pave the way for an African women's team that plays competitively.
"Do a unified African women's soccer team to play against the other women from other countries, as an African soccer team playing against United States, against Italy, against London," Zondo said.
And who knows? They might be even more competitive than the guys.
The tournament continues each weekend until the finals on May 17.