A lot of excitement is gathering for the improvements being made to the street soccer court at Santa Alicia Park. Facilitating the beautification and improved functionality of the court is being made possible by American Panna Championship, a team of professional street soccer players, through receiving a $2,500 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program.
“The grant was received for American Panna Championship and it was to obtain a mural on the court by an artist named Geoff Gouveia,” says Kevin McKeon, a representative for American Panna Championship. “He’s done some courts in Los Angeles and helped design some graphics for the courts in the street soccer mode for the FIFA video game. He’s a pretty well-known muralist in the street soccer community so we’re super excited to have him work on it!”
Geoff Gouveia has created visual art and designs all over the world, including for companies such as Adidas, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Facebook. As of 2020, he decided to focus his efforts on soccer culture. According to his website, he says “The game was my first love: I want to create art and design in a new way for the sport.”
While the design for the mural has not yet been finalized and approved by the City of Rohnert Park, McKeon hopes it will represent the diversity of the community and show how soccer can bring communities together.
Rohnert Park-based American Panna Championship was founded by Daniel Theobald and Nick Rogers who have competed in panna competitions all over the world. The organization provides youth and adult tournaments and clinics to help spread the culture of panna, a street soccer game that is usually played 1-to-1 or 2-to-2 within a small arena. A “panna” is playing the ball through an opponent’s legs.
The idea for the court improvements came from not only the American Panna Championship organization, but also others in the community including the Latino Alliance, who noticed the courts at A Park falling into disrepair.
“The court was not in the best shape,” says McKeon. “Before, there was about a foot of dirt and tree branches on the ground and the court couldn’t even be walked on. Some people in the community helped out and a lot of people in the Latino Alliance adopted the park and have been heavily involved in making it playable now.”
The City of Rohnert Park has plans to repave the court before the mural gets installed. Just recently, however, the Latino Alliance has been in talks with the Goals Foundation, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the city to explore options to completely renovate the courts. The plans entail having two courts dedicated to street soccer with built in goals, gates, lights and possibly some stands. It would become the first street soccer court in Sonoma County and McKeon hopes, a mecca for the street soccer community in the county.
“It will be free to play there,” says McKeon. “It’s not going to be something people have to pay for. You can go watch or get on the court. I think that’s something that this community really needs. There are a lot of people that don’t have a lot of money and they need stuff to do. I think it’s important that there is an avenue out there for them to find a community, be accepted and learn about the beautiful game of soccer.”