What is your name, and where is your team’s home field?
My name is Matthew Varughese. Our team’s home field is at Eden Hall/Fluehr Park near Holy Family University in Northeast Philadelphia. The home field is part of the park system. Our team members practice at 6 PM in evenings for a couple of hours during the weekends.
How did you hear about the Unity Cup?
I learned of the Unity Cup through the website, as well as through a friend working for the city. As soon as we found out, we filled out the form.
What were your initial impressions of the Unity Cup?
I thought that it was awesome and a great idea, especially since soccer is not a mainstream sport in the United States. Also because soccer is a game that brings communities together.
Why are you passionate about soccer? Why do you think that it is universal?
I have been playing soccer since I was 10, growing up with others who played soccer, especially my father. I think that it is universal because it is the most beautiful game, with a lot going into it. The World Cup, the biggest soccer tournament in the world, brings people together.
What is your connection to the team you are playing for?
I am team captain of the Arsenal team from Northeast Philadelphia, and responsible for the players and trying to bring in more youth. I was also born in India, coming to the US when I was 8. I have roots and family in India, and hang out with many Indians living in the Northeast section of Philadelphia.
Is there someone you identify with as the biggest influence in your community, either through soccer or in some other way?
John Joseph: South Jersey (possibly Gloucester County); Joy Kalaparambath: Founding father of Arsenal, big influence; Sunny Thomas: Team ambassador, involved with the community.
Is there someone in your community you look up to?
Sabu Joseph: New coach, but great and looked up to.
The Indian team is mostly composed of Malayalees, with some North Indians and Bengalis.
What do you love about living in Philadelphia?
I lived in Philadelphia from 1988/89 to 2005 and went to Logan for middle school and Drexel University. Philadelphia is one of a kind, and one wants to come back to Philadelphia. I love it and have friends and family here. It is a place that brings everyone together, and I would recommend Philadelphia to potential immigrants.
Do you participate in other leagues or tournaments?
I used to play in a now-defunct tournament called the Scotsman Cup. Now I play in Wayne and West Chester. I have been playing for Arsenal since I was 13. I play for Sons of Ben and tried out for Union a while ago. I also played a dozen games for the United Soccer League and used to play for Reading United.
Most of our team members are from Philadelphia. Some of the team players play in Casa, and a few play in high school and college teams.
Where do you get your information?
Online: philly.org; Community members get news through channels like CNN and ABC. They also get news through community newspapers.
How are you promoting your team? How are you bringing the team together?
We are promoting the team through churches, cultural organizations, and word-of-mouth. The majority of the team has been brought together through churches and newsletters. [At the time of the interview, the team had 16 players.]
If someone wanted to learn more about your team and cultural heritage, where should they go?
Go online to find more information. People can also reach out to cultural organizations. I think Northeast Philadelphia has the largest Indian-American community in Philadelphia, so someone can go there. If they need a specific location, they can check out the Atheeti Restaurant. There are also other restaurants in the Northeast.