Starfinder athletes embrace diversity through tile

At the Starfinder Foundation in Manayunk, a group of high school soccer players is taking time out of their practice schedule to get creative. 

The athletes are creating a mosaic mural that will be installed on the side of the Starfinder building on Main Street this fall. 

With the help of Baily Cyprus, an artist who specializes in mural construction, the athletes came up with the design and have been working on it for nearly a year.

Since the strip of wall that the group is working with is long and thin, the athletes suggested the creation of a soccer timeline. 

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The artwork showcases the diversity of Starfinder’s athletes, who represent 23 different countries throughout the world. 

The emblems for a number of soccer clubs around the world are being constructed on circular pieces of wood and covered with tiles to create a mosaic.

Natasha Dasilva has been working on the mosaic for Portugal’s emblem because she is part Portuguese.

“There are people from different cultures here, but you can still get to know everybody; we just get together, play soccer and have fun,” she said.

Countries that have won the World Cup will have a larger presence and some will incorporate ball bearings so that painted soccer balls can be attached. The athletes have also made mosaics with Starfinder’s motto – “soccer for social change, leadership beyond the game.”

For Heidi Warren, deputy director of Starfinder, who comes from an art background rather than soccer,  this is just one of the many different activities that the students participate in. The facilities include a large indoor turf field as well as a technology lab and multiple classrooms. 

The mission of Starfinder is to teach children of all ages to be competitive athletes but, more importantly for Warren, “to strive for success in their lives – in the classroom and in their communities.”

For many athletes who focus so much of their time on footwork, the hands-on project is a refreshing change of pace. 

One of the athletes, Michael Arthur, who came to Philadelphia from Ghana in 2008, is proud of his work on the mural and takes pictures of his mosaics every day to show to his family.

“I’m not really the best in drawing and art is not my specialty,” he said. “But when I start working on the mural, it makes me feel happy.” 

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