It was a special day at Red Rooster last week when an abnormally large table of tall, athletic young men came in for lunch. They were London's world-famous soccer team Chelsea FC's Under-21 squad, getting a feel for the neighborhood before announcing a partnership with FC Harlem. Between training with some of FC Harlem's players at their Riverside Park field and visiting the historic Apollo Theater, they chatted and ate with Marcus at Red Rooster.
Not only did they attract a more than a few glances and photos in their matching jerseys, but also they gave Marcus one to keep.
Both the Chelsea FC Foundation and FC Harlem are founded on the idea that soccer (or 'football,' to Chelsea) can help individuals feel tied to their community, and to a soccer community around the world. (It's no secret that Marcus feels the same way about the lessons kids can learn on the field that they can carry over to life.)
The partnership, called the the Young L.I.O.N.S (Leaders In Our Neighborhood) initiative, will establish more positive soccer experiences for young people to develop social and leadership skills. The Young L.I.O.N.S initiative is also a branch of Chelsea's Here to Play Here to Stay campaign that creates educational and soccer opportunities for kids around the world.
This isn't the first time they've worked together, either. They collaborated on visits to New York in the summer of 2012 and the spring of 2013, and out of their conversations, came up with the idea for the partnership.
To read more about Marcus and his love of soccer, click here
Photos by Roj Rodriguez