May 18, 2020 By Christian Murray
A soccer program headed by Spanish star David Villa that was launched last year to help immigrant children has just begun its second year—although “virtually.”
The program provides soccer training and equipment for immigrant children whose parents are being detained by ICE. The children are taught by Villa’s DV7 Soccer Academy and in normal times they get lessons twice a week at parks in Queens from April through May.
Council Member Francisco Moya, a huge soccer fan and friend of Villas, was the driving force behind the program last year and worked with the Hispanic Federation to make it happen.
Last year 126 children were enrolled, of which 75 were immigrant children who live in New York City—separated from their parents. The remaining children are in foster care.
Moya has allocated $150,000 in council funds to the Hispanic Federation, which works with Villa’s organization.
“Some may argue that soccer is a waste of money,” Moya says. “They are wrong. It is really inspiring to see—to see the joy these kids get from it.”
The virtual program started April 20 and again is largely for children whose parents have been detained by ICE. The lessons are prerecorded by Villa and uploaded to the Google classrooms platform the week prior.
The lessons include Villa teaching kids how to juggle a ball and various other techniques. This year there are about 60 children enrolled, with the average age being 15.
The participants train from wherever they are residing. Some are within foster care agencies, others with foster families.
Villa, who was part of the 2010 World Cup championship team Spain, has had a large presence in New York in recent years. He was a member of the New York City Football Club for four years though 2018 and is the co-owner of the newly-formed Queens FC, a team that is expected to start playing in the United Soccer League Championship division in 2021.
Moya said that Villa has always impressed him as a person—not just as a soccer player.
“He started to do a lot of free clinics in schools in my district,” Moya said. “He would spend four hours with these young kids— signing autographs…taking photos.”
Moya said that when children were getting separated from their parents at the U.S. border he felt the need to do something and spoke to Villa about forming the program.
“Football is a unifier around the globe,” Moya said. “I’m really grateful to David Villa’s commitment. He is all the way in Spain and still cares about these kids who are separated from their parents. It’s a testament to his character.”