What is your name and home field location?
Mohamed Fritis. We play at a rec center in South Philadelphia.
What is your connection to Algeria?
I was born in Algeria, grew up there, and moved here at 13.
What made you interested in participating in the Unity Cup?
Well, I was already involved in soccer, playing with my team, and I see the Unity Cup as a great opportunity to meet all different groups of people from around the world. It celebrates diversity. When I heard about it, I knew we had to get involved, so I researched and got ready for this year’s tournament.
How did your team come together?
We’ve been a team for a while, playing in different tournaments, and practicing two or three times a week. We have a lot of players. Last year we didn’t hear about the Unity Cup in time, but this year, we got organized and got the players together to participate.
Can you tell us a bit about the rest of your team?
Most of them have a story like me: they moved to the States at a young age and go back to Algeria to visit. Most of the players are participating to represent their country and to mingle with other cultures.
What does soccer mean to your community?
Soccer means everything: it’s a culture, it’s a way of expressing yourself, of connecting with others. You show your talent, your personality in the way you play. How you react to others and the way you coordinate with others on the field shows who you really are. You know, sometimes you’re up against other people you’ve never met before, competing with them, so when you’re facing them, your reactions and your choices as a player show who you are as a person.
Why is soccer important to you personally?
I grew up playing soccer and made great friends. Actually, I was in Algeria recently for a month-and-a-half, and I spent time with some organizations playing with kids as part of an outreach program and saw how important it was to them, as well.
How has soccer made your life better?
Soccer has kept me in shape and kept me around a positive group of people, staying out of trouble. I grew up in a rough neighborhood in South Philadelphia, but I was always in a high school, weekend, or after school league. It gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of brotherhood, and a sense of commitment.
Why do you think soccer is so popular around the world?
It’s the simplicity. To play soccer, you don’t need much: a ball, and not a lot of other equipment. In Algeria, if we didn’t have a ball, we would just make one out of plastic bags. You can play in any open space, field, the street. With a ball and a few friends, you can just have fun for a couple of hours.
How do you think soccer in general (and the Unity Cup in particular) promotes inclusivity?
I think this is the best league. It’s just the number of people coming together. Especially in the time we live in now, with racism and other problems, it’s incredible to have people from 48 countries, all over the world, speaking so many languages, coming together to play. Also, there are so many people coming to the games. They’ll be meeting and mingling with people from all over the world. They might have never met someone of a certain nationality before, but these games will bring people of different backgrounds together.
What places (such as restaurants or cultural centers) or groups in Philadelphia would you recommend to someone if they wanted to learn more about Algerian culture?
There’s community centers and shops in South Philadelphia, and Algerian Café, at 1417 Snyder Street. I’d recommend the couscous or the tagine: couscous is like a pasta, and you can get it with chicken, fish, or other meats. It’s really good.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about Algeria?
Just geographically, Algeria is between Morocco and Tunisia, it’s in North Africa. People are friendly, welcoming, and also mindful, helpful. They respect other cultures.