20 miles outside of Atlanta, Soccer in the Streets Director of Programs Tony Carter grew up playing the beautiful game of soccer.
“I had a ton of kids in my neighborhood, so I was fortunate I could always play with someone,” said Carter “ I was the only person who played soccer in the neighborhood. I would always feel different in that regard.”
Carter’s journey to the pitch started at the South Dekalb YMCA. His team was mostly Black athletes, besides one of his teammates. This is where he grew his passion for the game.
“It was kind of cool,” Carter said with a smile. “This was the late 80s and going into the 90s. You didn’t see that too often. That was my introduction to the passion for the game of soccer. It was so unique to play. It wasn’t the cool thing to play yet in our pop culture world. I found this community of support and support of kids and families that look like me, too. That was huge to me, and it was very important to me.”
Carter eventually found his position - goalkeeper. He fell in love with the position when his team needed a keeper and Carter decided to step in. One match is all it took to ignite his love and passion for the position.
As a child, Carter would wander the aisles in bookstores looking at the soccer magazines, trying to find an idol.
“I would just look for soccer players that were Black,” Carter said. “That’s when I discovered Shaka Hislop. He was a Black goalkeeper and then I found out that he went to Howard University which was awesome because that was already on the list of schools I wanted to go to. I’m 5th generation to attend Howard and to find out he went there. I was like dang that is awesome! I was a fan of his! He was on my wall.”
Just like his idol, Hislop, Carter eventually found his way to Howard University and their soccer team.
“I walked on the team there,” Carter said. “I love the coaches there. I never had a goalkeeper coach until I went to Howard.”
After graduating college, Carter knew he wanted to continue to be around the sport and eventually began his coaching career, largely because of his great coaches at Howard. Carter coached private school, club teams, and eventually at Soccer in the Streets where he coaches today.
“I didn’t have access to those tools,” Carter expressed with care. “That’s another reason why I wanted to become a goalkeeper coach. I hope to be able to provide some type of wisdom and expertise to kids who don’t have it. I wanted to be associated with Soccer in the Streets because I could provide resources to kids who don’t have them.”
Carter has spent the last three years at Soccer in the Streets. He fulfills his purpose every day by teaching the beautiful game to those who might’ve not had the opportunity otherwise. He knows having a professional soccer team down the street from their pitches helps inspire the kids every day. Carter and his fellow coaches encourage the kids to watch the 5-Stripes’ matches.
“We are intentional about talking about Atlanta United because when they watch the game they will get better,” Carter said with purpose.
Since Carter’s days in Stone Mountain as a child, the game has grown tremendously in the state of Georgia and especially in the Black Community.
“There have been strides where soccer has been talked about in the Black community,” Carter expressed. “I definitely think the steps Atlanta United has taken and embraced the Atlanta culture has been a huge part.”
Carter loves the beautiful game and looks forward to the continued growth of the sport throughout his city and through the children he coaches.