In a display of true athletic ability and fabulous teamwork, AAFSC’s soccer team, the Yemen Cobras, became the NYPD Youth Soccer League champions on Tuesday, August 30th at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The final championship game was tied 2-2 until a goal in a sudden-death overtime awarded the team first place. We sat down with Osama and Othman, best friends and long-time Yemen Cobra teammates, to talk about their friendship and how the team got to where they are today.
AAFSC: How and when did the Yemen Cobras soccer team form?
Osama: It started in 2013. My friends and I used to come to the center all the time to do our homework, and when we finished we didn’t have anything to do. I thought it would be a good idea to start a soccer team. My uncle is an NYPD detective, and when I talked to him about the idea, he said ‘Hey, we have this NYPD soccer league, and maybe we can help.’
I talked to Jake (former AAFSC AmeriCorps VISTA), and he agreed it was a good idea. He was our first coach, and then Anthony took over.
This was the first time the Yemen Cobras won the championship. How have you all improved over the years?
Osama: In 2013, we had 10 boys on the team. We used to get to the semi-finals and lose because the players didn’t take the game seriously; they just came for fun and they didn’t commit. Now we put all our energy into the game and come to win. Anthony is a really good coach. We’ve been together for a long time and he knows each person’s personality, and he came up with ideas of how we could work together.
What did it feel like to win? What do you think you’ve learned from the experience?
Othman: I can’t complain—it felt really good to win! We practiced a lot and now we know that we have to take the game seriously and we can’t underestimate the other team.
Osama: I still remember the last year when we lost, and I look at myself now and I feel like I could do more than this, like I could go on to win big championships. I believe in myself that we could do more. When we work together as a team and as a group we can do anything.
You all are really good friends and love to play soccer together. How long have you all been in Brooklyn? How did you become friends?
Othman: I’m from Yemen and I’ve been here since 2014, and that’s when I met Osama. We met when we would play soccer on Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. When we met at Pier 5, we just knew we were both from Yemen and now you could say now we are brothers. We always used to play on the same team. Osama was the one who told me about the Markez (AAFSC). We used to play every Friday, and we really understand each other.
Osama: I came to Brooklyn in 2012. I’ve been playing soccer all my life, in Yemen and here, and we met playing soccer.
The Yemen Cobras team is just one part of the Youth Program here at AAFSC. What other activities do you all do like to do here? How has AAFSC played a role in your life?
Othman: I did the MENA Music Club, and they helped me a lot with homework. We also did the Boys Club. I was really bad in math and the center helped me a lot, and I’m getting better and better.
Osama: I have been coming to AAFSC since I came from Yemen. I brought my friends here too. I did the “I Need to Be Heard!” Project, the Boys Club, and a lot of Afterschool activities. AAFSC has helped me a lot. I think if I didn’t come to the center, it would be hard for me, to do my homework and know new people and know how this new system works, because from my country to this country there are a lot of differences. They helped me through a lot of things, and they even helped me get a job.
The soccer field at Pier 5 is my third house; AAFSC is my second house.
Othman is currently a student at the School for International Studies in Brooklyn and Osama plans to attend the New York City College of Technology. Congratulations to Osama, Othman, and all of the Yemen Cobras!