HARI SREENIVASAN: Here in New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world, a local soccer tournament – partially-sponsored by a professional soccer club – is giving 40 international teams the chance to claim their own trophy.
Welcome to Cosmos Copa — a mini-World Cup, if you will. The all-male teams are local groups, comprised of amateur, semi-pro and former professional athletes representing their national heritage.
NICK PUGLIESE: What makes this tournament special is sort of this celebration of all the ethnicities and nationalities in New York.
HARI SREENIVASAN: American Nick Pugliese is a member of team NYC-Afghanistan; having been the first American to play professional soccer in Kabul, he got the unique opportunity to re-join some soccer colleagues from Afghanistan here at Cosmos Copa.
NICK PUGLIESE: It’s an opportunity to come together with your community and play soccer and hopefully have, you know, have a good time and achieve something together.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The tournament attracts some of the best hidden soccer talent in the tri-state area. From Ireland, to Argentina, Guyana to Greece, any group can be represented as long as they can field a team of 18 players. And similar to the world cup, political differences are temporarily set aside with national pride at stake.
MOHAMMAD YUSEF MASHRIQI: I’m taking this tournament very seriously to represent Afghanistan, and if we do well I’m sure all Afghans around the world will hear about it in social media.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mohammad Yusef Mashriqi is captain of the NYC-Afghanistan team. He was born and raised in Queens, NY…but has spent the past three years playing for the Afghan National Team – which won a major south Asian tournament in 2013 – creating a frenzy back in Kabul.
Today, team NYC-Afghanistan is hoping to create a frenzy of their own as they have advanced to the next round of the tournament. Cosmos Copa will conclude August 2 at Hofstra University.