Student-Led ‘SoccerCon’ Celebrates Sport's Power for Marginalized Communities
Posted March 21, 2023
The inaugural SoccerCon: Atlanta Conference on Soccer and Social Innovation will take place on March 29 and 30.
This two-day event will begin with an awards ceremony at the Historic Academy of Medicine featuring a choreographed TIFO — a typical gameday display by soccer supporters with art and chants — and appearances by international dignitaries, a former Major League Soccer and U.S. Men's National Team player, and more. Day two will feature five panels on soccer and social innovation with scholars and activists from around the world.
"This is all student-led and student-developed through the Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) that I direct," said Kirk Bowman, Regents' Entrepreneur, professor, and Rise Up & Care Term Chair in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. "The students have a whole set of initiatives on soccer, community innovation, and politics, and SoccerCon is just one of them."
Bowman and Alberto Fuentes, an assistant professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of City and Regional Planning, plan to host the event every two years. They have two main goals. First, to build a community of young scholars and activists in Atlanta and worldwide exploring soccer and innovation issues. Second, to highlight and develop Atlanta's role in using soccer for innovative social change.
This is important because Atlanta is hosting World Cup games in 2026," Bowman said. "So we want to be able to not only leverage that but also highlight the role Atlanta has played here and around the world in soccer.
Undergraduate student and lead conference coordinator Jordan Artis was born and raised in Atlanta. She said she has always known soccer has a home here.
"Many people say that the South is the home of American football, but this event, we hope, will challenge that notion," she said.
Artis and fellow attendees will have the opportunity to make professional connections with local and international game-changers during the conference, including Mbali Hlongwane, the founder of Pink Codrs in South Africa; Matt Lawrey, the Academy Director at Atlanta United; and Sanjay Patel, the developer of Station Soccer at Atlanta’s MARTA locations. After the conference, the VIP members and global contributors will publish an edited volume. They also will complete data analysis and research around the topics discussed.
"As soccer develops in our city, we are excited to see where this little dream that began in a Van Leer building classroom with 20 Georgia Tech students will go," Artis said. “As for this year's SoccerCon, it will be an opportunity for us all to learn and teach, brainstorm and create, and honor and celebrate.”
SoccerCon: The Atlanta Conference on Soccer and Social Innovation is free and open to all. It will take place on March 29 – 30, 2023. See the complete list of award winners, panelists, participants, and more at atlsoccercon.org.
Q&A with SoccerCon Coordinator Jordan Artis
Jordan is a third-year undergraduate student with a major in International Affairs and Modern Languages (Spanish) and a minor in Sports, Society, and Technology.
She is a member of the Soccer, Community, Innovation, and Politics VIP and the lead conference coordinator for SoccerCon: The Atlanta Conference on Soccer and Social Innovation.
1. Why did you choose to get involved in SoccerCon and this VIP?
I played soccer for 15 years, and throughout my time at Tech, I seldom had opportunities to apply my love of soccer in the classroom. After reading about this VIP team and learning about the new endeavor of SoccerCon, I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in every step of the way.
As someone who was born and raised in Atlanta and played youth soccer in Georgia, I have always known that soccer has a home here, which was especially seen after the establishment of Atlanta United. So, studying this, putting boots on the ground, and talking to those who are bettering the game all around the state has truly been an honor.
Additionally, being able to expand upon my International Affairs coursework and the classes I have completed thus far in the Sports, Society, and Technology minor have given me better insight not just for this conference but as I complete my studies in the classroom. Ultimately, soccer is more than just a game; it is an international institution that touches on many facets of our society. This VIP does a phenomenal job highlighting soccer's integration into everything from local cultural makeups to global socioeconomic trends.
2. What's going to be the best part of SoccerCon?
In my opinion, the best part of SoccerCon will be the opening. To open the event, we partnered with Vera Zeigler, an Atlanta-based artist who has done numerous murals and TIFOs (choreographed visual displays by sports fans) for Atlanta United. She has agreed to create a TIFO for us.
As we unveil this TIFO, the crowd will have the chance to participate in a chant. This unveiling and chant will set the tone for the event and will be an exciting way to bring typical game day activities to our conference.
3. Why should everyone attend SoccerCon?
This will be a unique opportunity for us to show the world that Atlanta is a soccer city. Many people say that the South is the home of American football, but this event, we hope, will challenge that notion.
Specifically, this event is going to highlight five soccer organizations right here in the city of Atlanta that are innovating the game. The ability to celebrate and thank these organizations for everything they do will be wonderful for developing the game right in our backyards. Beyond this, we will have individuals in attendance who are changing the game in their communities abroad, so attending this event will allow us to actively build a bridge between those from afar and those near.
With Atlanta hosting some 2026 World Cup games, we know that soccer will play an increasingly large role in the city's affairs, so we plan to hold this conference every two years. As soccer develops in our city, we are excited to see where this little dream that began in a Van Leer building classroom with 20 Georgia Tech students will go. As for this year's SoccerCon, it will be an opportunity for us all to learn and teach, brainstorm and create, and honor and celebrate.
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