As the sun set on a late-August evening, Jamaicans from throughout Philadelphia strode across a field at the Finley Recreation Center. For many, the field is a second home; a place where for years friendships have been cultivated over countless pick-up soccer games on Sundays.
Laughs were flowing, but the night was less business as usual and more let's get down to business. In three days, these men would represent their country against Gambia in Philly's equivalent of the World Cup.
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Lining up with the team for calisthenics was a man wearing a white painter's hat, black sweats and white T-shirt underneath an orange reflective vest. He wouldn't play against Gambia and, at 58, has at least three decades on most of the men running next to him, but he matches their energy step for step.
He knows the field better than anyone because, over the course of the summer, he's willed it to life using techniques he perfected on professional soccer pitches back home. Meet Paul Williams, the unofficial groundskeeper of Finley Rec Center in West Oak Lane and an honorary member of Team Jamaica in the 2021 Philadelphia International Unity Cup.
In just a few months under Williams' care, the soccer field at Finley has evolved from a dirt bowl, riddled with rocks and holes, into a formidable pitch complete with boundary lines.
When Williams isn't working his maintenance job at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, you'll likely find the soccer fanatic at the rec center manicuring the field with a push mower or removing weeds with his trademark machete in preparation for the Jamaicans' next practice.
One neighbor who lives across the street was shocked to learn the man she watches labor diligently over the field on a daily basis is closer to 60 years old than he is to 30.
In Williams' younger days, groundskeeping paid the bills. Now, it's good exercise, and it keeps him connected with other members of the city's close-knit Caribbean community. All he asks for in return are bottles of water.
"I'm just doing this all for the game," he said. "I'm not getting a salary."Brooks Holton/PhillyVoice
Paul Williams watches Team Jamaica practice at Finley Recreation Center on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Williams, 58, has become an unofficial groundskeeper at the field after working on professional soccer fields in his native Kingston.
Source : https://www.phillyvoice.com/philadelphia-unity-cup-soccer-jamaica-groundskeeper-pitch-west-oak-lane/544