A crowd of soccer players standing in the middle of a sidewalk in downtown Phoenix chatting and idly kicking the ball around is more than enough to cause a scene. But it’s not the scene they’re after.
It’s the view.
Instead of the street, these athletes are playing in one of the last places one might expect a soccer game: the rooftops of downtown Phoenix.
They call it soccerbombing. It’s organized by Small Goal Soccer, the largest adult soccer organization in America.
The tradition started when Small Goal Soccer National Director Adam Thelwell and Regional Director Trevor Brandel were out drinking sake bombs with friends and decided to take to a rooftop and play a game of pickup soccer.
The namesake sake bombing became soccerbombing. Since then, they have soccerbombed seven different times. Previously they have played on top of empty parking lots at night, constantly looking over their shoulders for security.
Saturday marked the first time Small Goal Soccer went through an official source. By partnering with Lifestyle Fitness, the organization was able to gain access to Lifestyle’s rooftop tennis courts where they set up small goals and played a round robin style tournament consisting of five player teams.
Small Goal Soccer already has leagues all over Arizona, but no league currently is established in downtown Phoenix.
Their goal is to have a downtown league established in about a month. They hope to establish the league with soccerbombing as a permanent fixture.
Thelwell says they want to continue to work with Lifestyle Fitness to establish a rooftop league after hours every Saturday afternoon from about 12 p.m. to 8 p.m..
He believes the oddity factor of soccerbombing would draw more interest than a traditional league.
“When we try to get people to play traditional soccer in Phoenix it’s not as popular,” Thelwell said. “With soccerbombing it’s more unique. No one else is doing this. And it has this very urban feel to it.”
On Friday, Small Goal Soccer posted on its Facebook asking for interest in Saturday’s soccerbombing event, resulting in hundreds of messages from interested players.
The event was capped at about 35 people Saturday. If a league is established, organizers believe they could easily have five times that number on a given day by cycling through teams each hour, Brandel said.
The uniqueness of the location meant the atmosphere included traditional urban sounds such as the light rail and cars mixed together with the soccerbombing sounds of loud music, squeaking of shoes and playful teasing.
One player, Tamara Jakubos, who typically plays in the North Phoenix League, said the terrain made the games challenging.
“The ground doesn’t give at all, when you go to pivot you just stop right on the ground,” Jakubos said.
She said it was more fast-paced but the view made playing “awesome.”
Another player, Erick Soto, slid into a sharp corner of the wall and sliced his knee open. He got his leg wrapped up with the help of a few other players before exiting the event early.
“Still was worth it,” Soto, who needed stiches, joked as he hobbled toward the stairs to leave.
Contact the reporter at Kara.Carlson@asu.edu