PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Uniting people by providing common ground on and off the field in Peoria’s South Side is the goal of a group of soccer enthusiasts.

“Right here, everyone is coming to enjoy it,” said Jose Rivera. “Everybody is happy. When they leave, they’re happy.”

Rivera is one of the organizers, coaches, and referees for the South Side Soccer Club, an informal yet formal group that plays every Sunday in Logan Park. Each week, up to 100 people, over the age of 18, and hailing from areas like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico as well as area high schools lace up their boots.

The league, which started in April, has playoffs and will crown a champion sometime after Halloween, has about 14 teams right now. It costs $20 to play but if someone wants to show up, Rivera said he’ll find a team for them to play.

“Everyone is welcome to play,” he said.

He said soccer is more than just a match. It’s a way for the community to convene and enjoy each other’s company. Many, he said, come and watch the games which last all day. It’s a community event.

“We’ve got three to 400 people,” said Rivera. “We’ve got Mexican food like you see back there. We have two or three restaurants that come in here, so no matter what, you come in here, and if you don’t like soccer, you will like the food.”

This week’s CI Hero said the group started with six teams in 2013. Next year, they hope to expand into younger ages with a 12U, 14U, and 16U program in the works. They also hope to get a website up and running as well. For now, Rivera said, people should reach out to him on his cell phone at (708) 890-2561.

Nominate someone in your community to be our next CI Hero!