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August 3 Coming Out Party: After 30 Years The Lil Peles Soccer Club Contniues Their Dynasty, History
7/17/2013 12:19:09 PM

Ebony City Soccer Club Lil’ Peles Youth Soccer Teams at Harambee Field in 1983. Photo: Wendell Johnson

By Bob Small

Editor’s note: With the Peles celebrating 30 years of existence the following is part one of a series on the history of accomplishments of the Ebony City Soccer Club

  In their first three years of existence the Lil Peles of the Ebony City Soccer Club captured five state recreation titles in three different age groups for boys and girls, had two teams that were undefeated in four seasons of play and turned the Charleston youth soccer community on their heels. The Lil Peles were one the most dominant teams in the tri-county area. Their cheers and mere presence sent chills through opposing teams. The ironic thing about their accomplishments was that most of the players had no soccer experience and had never touched a soccer ball until they joined the Lil Peles. 

  The success of this predominantly African American team caused a lot of the white teams to begin to take a closer look at black players as part of their success. It also marked a rush in soccer camps to provide training for the area teams in skills and tactics to be able to compete with the Lil Peles.

  Now, 30 years later the Peles are still on the pitch and on Aug 3 at West Ashley Park at 3:30 they will hold their first major reunion. Organizers Nikki Wilson and Azikwe Chandler have said they want all former and present players and supporters to come out for an evening of food, fun and reminiscing.  

  What started out as a simple request by some concerned parents to provide educational opportunities to some adults living in the Robert Mills Manor Housing Complex and provide something positive for the youth to do turned into an institution that has gained the distinction of being one of the oldest African American youth soccer programs in the nation. 

Leathea Mae Simmons, Eugene Jenkins and Jerome Smalls wanted to provide some educational opportunities for adults living in the housing project.  They contacted Osei Chandler of the Educational Opportunity Center at TTC. Several meetings were held and the talked began to lean toward doing something to keep the youth out of trouble. At a later meeting  Chandler brought a friend, Jorge “Cito” Lindsay  and Al “Hollywood” Meggett (founder of the local boxing club) to discuss some things that could be done with the youth, mostly boys. 

 Police presence had increased around the housing complex and a growing number of the youth found themselves in minor scrapes with the law. 

It was Lindsay, a native of Panama who had played soccer as a youth who suggested that they start a soccer team for the youth. The fact that soccer is the most popular sport in the world and that players could learn about other countries and cultures made it a good fit. Chandler and Lindsay would coach the first team. 

  Looking back Chandler said he thought the team would be active for a few years and die out. “I thought two maybe three years and we would be on to something else,” he recalls. The success of the first team, undefeated in city league only wet their appetite. At the start of the second season the number of players had tripled and the formal club began. Indeed. The players and parents would not let it end. After the first season in the city of Charleston Recreation Department the Peles joined the then Greater Charleston Youth Soccer Association a part of the state association and the legacy was on.  In their first year in the league the Peles won the Under 12 State Recreational title. A process that would be repeated for the next five years at various age levels for both boys and girls.

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