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August 3 Coming Out Party: After 30 Years The Lil Peles Soccer Club Contniues Their Dynasty, History - Part II
7/24/2013 12:20:57 PM

(left to right) Founding coaches of Ebony City Soccer Club Robert Small, John Wilson with son Kareem Wilson, Osei Chandler & Jorge Cito Lindsay

By Bob Small

After the first season with one team, The Ebony City Soccer Club was formed with three teams - Under 8, Under 12 and Under 16 age groups. The success of the Under-12 Peles resulted in youth from all over converging on the Peles. While the club was started for and by African Americans it was open to all who wanted to play. Over the years the Peles have had players from all ethnic backgrounds. 

At its height the Lil Peles had 13 teams. Some coaches had two teams because of the large number of youth who came out. Club rules stated that no child who wanted to play would be denied regardless of their financial ability to play. This kept a steady stream of youth coming in. Players came from as far away as Walterboro, Edisto Island, Summerville and Green Pond to the Pele practice fields. 

Lindsay laughed as he recalled pulling the first team together. “Most of the boys in the housing complex thought soccer was a sissy sport and did not want to participate. When they would see us coming in one direction they would take off in the other,” he said. 

It was their parents that pushed them to attend practices and after seeing a video of Pele and the things he did with a soccer things changed. “When they saw all the things, ‘the world’s greatest soccer player,’ could do with a soccer ball they were hooked and tried to mimic his moves.” Lindsay recalled. Not many of the players had soccer balls so they honed their soccer skills using basketballs. 

The name Lil Peles was selected for several reasons, Chandler recalls. “We wanted the kids to know that Pele himself came from very humble beginnings and overcame diversity to become the world’s greatest player. He did not let his environment limit his success” he said. 

Local photographer Wendell Johnson, who chauffeured the teams to and from games in a large Winnebago that doubled at a moving darkroom was responsible for adding the “Lil” to the Peles. He coined the word Lil Peles, partly in reference to their Gullah culture. “Little” became “Lil.” 

Not every soccer club was happy to see the Lil Peles on the scene. The Ebony City Soccer Club had invaded a sport that had been traditionally white and some teams took offense. Some constructively by improving training and skills and some who had to be reported to the association, Coach Bob Small said. 

It was support from the Late Herman Halter, then president of the James Island Soccer Club and president of the GCYSA, Ed Kadell of the Hungryneck Soccer Club of Mount Pleasant and referee Bill Bogan that helped the Peles through their first year.

If there was one thing the Peles were known for other than being successful on the soccer field, it was with their cheers and songs. “We made a rule that parents could not cheer for their child individually, they had to cheer for the team. Those parents came up with some of the best cheers I ever heard,” said Chandler. 

If the Pele parents had the cheers it was the magic in the word “Harambee” that caught the ears of the opposing teams. The word which in Swahili means, “All Pull Together,” was shouted three times after a goal was scored.

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Submitted By: SAMUELLA HOLMES Submitted: 7/29/2013

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