Zeke Harris has been playing soccer for nearly two decades and he isn’t yet 25. He was playing for his college team when Detroit City Football Club contacted him four years ago, just as it was turning from a casual neighborhood team to a semi-professional one. He’s watched the team’s popularity grow, earning them a fanbase that’s dedicated, to say the least.
“It’s been great. It’s so encouraging having such a strong support group that comes to every home game and supports us, but that also travels away when we go play a team even up towards Lansing, they always come,” says Harris. “A lot of times they bring more voices than the team we are playing. A lot of times they drown out the opponent’s fans even on their home fields. A lot of the games we go to feel like we’re still in Detroit.”
With nearly 20 years in the game, Harris’ love for soccer goes deeper than kicking a ball around and enjoying the cheers from adoring fans as he and his teammates dazzle them with some weekend athletic prowess. It’s a little more philosophical than that.
“Why does someone choose to dedicate their life to play the violin? It’s more than just the instrument or the music you produce but it’s the act of becoming a master not for anyone else’s sake but to be as good as you can be. That’s why I love playing and still play today,” Harris says.
The past year Harris has had to take a small step back from DCFC — he took a position with the United Way that’s been taking up a lot of his time. Like his fellow players, soccer is a passion, but their regular lives find them making a difference off the pitch.
The yearlong “revitalization fellowship,” called Challenge Detroit, has Harris bringing together nonprofits, marketing and social media firms, architects, and business people to work on projects in education, transportation, neighborhood activation, and urban farming. Right now, he says he’s doing development work of the Eight Mile Boulevard.
“It’s a fellowship that really enables you to get your feet on the ground and get your hands dirty when it comes to really being involved with what’s happening in the city,” he says.
Harris likes to get his hands dirty, whether it’s on the soccer field or in Detroit neighborhoods.
“I like to get things done. I don’t really have the patience to wait for things to come to me or wait until I’m older. I think waiting for the right time often leads to a lot of time being wasted,” he says. “For me it’s being proactive and reactive to what’s happening. I just don’t want to look back in five years and say, ‘What did I do the last five years?’ Instead, I’d rather take the risk.”