Community Leader and African Advisory Council committee member Ambroise Ngande has helped to organize the African Nations Cup tournament in the shadow of Yankee Stadium since the beginning of the decade.
A competition which brings Africans from across the continent together for a six-week festival of soccer in Macomb’s Dam Park, it’s been a vital tool in quelling tensions in the borough in the annual buildup to Bronx Week.
This is Ambroise’s story…
In 2010, there were some issues in the Bronx between residents of public housing and Africans and the situation was becoming tense. As a community, we sat down to have a conversation and said “we have got to live together”.
Out of that, the conclusion was that the African community was not well connected to the community and everyone was just doing their own thing, so we decided we should form the African Advisory Council (AAC) and that group has been alive for the past ten years and is represented by people from Cameroon, Togo, Mali… people from all over Africa.
There are three things that Africans do in this country – we go to school, we go to work and we go to Western Union. We don’t really have a lot of distractions because we have to support our families back home.
Our role is to assist African communities - from there, we knew we had to find another way to bring the community together and for Africans, nothing can unite people like football. You don’t have to speak the same language; you just have to love the game and we love the game.
There are a lot of Africans in the Bronx which means we’re here to stay and we have to find ways to integrate into the community and football is definitely one of them.
That’s how the African Nations Cup got started and since, a lot of people from different countries whose paths may not have crossed before, have come to know each other and become friends.
We started with four countries in the tournament in the first year and it’s grown now to become 20, playing out of Macomb’s Dam Park over six weekends. This is part of the Bronx Week celebrations – we always make sure to stage the final the day before the Bronx Day parade, so that the winning team will join the parade with their trophy and march. It gets very emotional.
I met Paul Jeffries (City in the Community) when NYCFC was first coming into the Bronx and, even though the club was just starting, they helped us so much since that year, just with tickets to games, balls and what have you - it’s been great to see the team growing and I always go to the games when I can.
For me, one of the best things that ever happened to the Bronx is NYCFC coming to the area.