Before he played for Barcelona, before he was a World Cup winner and New York City FC captain, David Villa learned his soccer on the streets.
Children in underserved areas in all five New York City boroughs will have similar opportunities thanks to the New York City Soccer Initiative, a partnership between NYCFC, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Adidas that was announced on Tuesday. 
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The $3 million initiative will replace dilapidated or worn down playgrounds with 50 brand new soccer fields over the course of the next five years.
“We started in futbol sala, it’s five against five like this and it’s great for the kids, great for learning soccer,” Villa said. “I think in this country the soccer is growing, the kids want to play in the street soccer day by day. This is an amazing project to give the kids the space and opportunity to play soccer.” 
In the suburbs of London, Frank Lampard’s legendary career started in a similar way.
“It’s hugely important. I was fortunate. I grew up in suburbs outside of London and we had areas to play, safe areas,” Lampard said. “But I’ve seen similar initiatives to this in London, in England. There’s underprivileged areas that need children to play, to socialize, to play whatever sport they want to actually.”
Lampard went on to play in academies with a more structured environment, but some of his fondest memories came from his formidable years when there were no coaches around.
“The real grit and basics is what you do with your friends when you’re young,” Lampard said. “I was forever kicking a ball and I was very fortunate. I had surroundings to be able to do that. A lot of children don’t have that. That’s why it’s important to have those places where you can kick a ball, even on your own.”
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NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said he never had trouble finding a field to play on in France and he hopes that soon becomes a reality with the construction of 50 fields throughout New York City.
“That is the difference between the U.S. and France, where I grew up,” Vieira said. “In France, you can find football pitches on every corner and you see kids just kicking the ball around and playing the game.”
The birth of Vieira as a soccer player, as was the case with Villa and Lampard, happened in places like the Millbrook Playground in the South Bronx, the site of Tuesday morning’s news conference and one of the first eight fields constructed.
“In the street, this is where you play with freedom, you learn the game,” Vieira said. “I think when you look at the greatest players in Europe, from [Zinedine] Zidane to [Thierry] Henry, they all learned their first skills in the street.”

David Villa, Frank Lampard and Patrick Vieira Discuss Street Soccer -