Each fall for more than fifteen years, Moscow Youth Soccer League has united Expat and Russian boys and girls from age 3 to 17 in the fresh fall open air for the Beautiful Game. Beginning in September, MYSL organizes ten game days on Saturdays and Sundays. This year the season ran from September 3 to October 16 for about 400 kids of all experience levels. It has become the largest independent amateur sports program that brings together Expat and Russian kids. In the spring it also offers a shorter Moscow Youth Champions League tournament.
MYSL consists of six divisions of teams by age, ranging from 3-5 years old for Division 6 to 15-17 for Division 1. Each team has a sponsor: well-known international companies such as P&G and Pepsi, and also Russia-based such as RBK and Beverly Hills Diner. Each kid gets a full kit with jersey, shorts and leggings provided by the team sponsor â children love the kits and they become souvenirs for life.
Kids register online, and are then randomly divided into teams, with some judgement used to balance ages and skill levels. There are occasional roster changes after the first day of friendly games to balance skill levels. The tournament begins in earnest on the second game day. Coaches are volunteers, usually parents. Experienced referees oversee each game.
Dutch businessman Derk Sauer, who founded The Moscow Times and a Russian publishing empire, also founded MYSL. The league benefited from support from the Moscow Times and a number of Mr. Sauer’s Dutch colleagues. It grew through the 90s, but like the many Moscow kids who have grown up with MYSL, the league became more independent with the support of dozens of parent volunteers.
MYSL is now part of Korsa Media, but managed day-to-day as a charitable activity by two very personable young ladies, Ksenia Mershina and Lucia Rodriguez. Chet Bowling, a volunteer parent, is now the chairman of the league, and there are volunteer leaders for each of the six divisions.
The working languages for MYSL are English and Russian, but a wide variety of languages and nationalities are represented on the pitches. All kids get prizes and medals at the end of each season. Another hallmark of MYSL has always been fair play and sportsmanship is rewarded. Each division awards a Best Sportsmanship Team at the end of the season.
In recent years MYSL has also reached out to support other charities: any excess earnings are donated to other charities such as DownSide Up (which helps families with a child with Down Syndrome), MPC Social Services, Nastyenka fund and Noginski orphanage. With MPC Social Services, MYSL also organized a Day Against Racism on a tournament day last year. The league also sponsored training for kids with Down Syndrome in cooperation with DownSide Up this year.
The league has great benefits for parents as well, especially the opportunity to get out with your child and root for his or her team. Tournament days are also great networking experiences and a chance to meet other parents from around the world and usually interesting reasons for landing in Russia. Most parents make many new friends after a season, and the network expands for those who participate year after year.
For sponsors, MYSL represents not only a great public service, but a chance to reach out and develop good will with a large, extended Expat community, and enthusiastic Russian parents and children. In addition to logos on the bright jerseys of each kid on their team, each game day large banners for each sponsor are hung around the pitches. The MYSL sponsors over the years have provided a wonderful community service for the city.
Chet Bowling, League Chairman
After 7 years as a parent and even once coach, it has been very fulfilling this year to help everybody involved at MYSL, and of course the kids, to have fun. For me, and other volunteers, the smiles on faces makes it well worth our time. We are looking forward to the 2017 season!!
Rodolfo Abenoja, Parent and Division Leader
MYSL is the greatest competition in Moscow where kids from different countries meet and compete. We love the international atmosphere. It’s always great to meet new faces and make friends. The bonding and camaraderie among the kids becomes stronger each year. And there’s always the Burger stand to keep us happy and the complimentary coffee and tea to keep us warm in this autumn season.