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Former student kicks off soccer club

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Rob “Biko” Baker (left) and the U-11 team after their  rst outdoor soccer game.

Rob “Biko” Baker (left) and the U-11 team after their rst outdoor soccer game.

Courtesy of Rob Baker

Courtesy of Rob Baker

Rob “Biko” Baker (left) and the U-11 team after their rst outdoor soccer game.

John Cummings, Writer

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Whistle, kickoff, pass. Trap, juke, header. Corner kick, scissor kick, goal.

Maybe that wasn’t the rhythm Rob “Biko” Baker had on the soccer field during his days at Northeastern Illinois University  but since then, he has certainly scored goals off the field, earning a Ph.D., starting Pride FC, and starting his own project management company.

Baker started Pride FC because he and his co-founder, Tyrone Gordon, realized there were a lot of soccer players that didn’t have a place to play in North Milwaukee.

“We focus on making sure that soccer players of all economic backgrounds are able to play at a high level, without paying the fees that other clubs do,” Baker said.

Baker played on the NEIU soccer team his freshman year, in 1996, with coach John Hannan.

“He made us run for two weeks without touching the ball,” Baker said. “Looking back, that intensity to compete has influenced me in my professional life.”

After NEIU, Baker went on to graduate from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee with a double major in Political Science and Africology. At UW–Milwaukee, rather than playing, he coached soccer full time while focusing on school.

“I was a much better student than an athlete,” Baker said.

After graduating from UW-Milwaukee, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in History at UCLA.

“Rob has been in my life since I was six years old,”  Gordon said. “I went a little further with my soccer career but Biko has always been a role model for me.”

Now, instead of role modeling for Gordon, he is inspiring the youth that play for Pride FC.

Desire Mukucha, 17, has been playing soccer since he was six years old. He has been living in Milwaukee for four years after his family moved from Tanzania.

“Coach Biko is an inspiration to (me) in many ways, like giving back to the community,” Mukucha said. “When I look at him he makes me think that there’s no limit in becoming successful, he brings the determination out of me, he makes me think out of the box and he makes feel like everything that I do is just a part of my journey.”

He not only motivates off the field, but teaches qualities like honesty and sportsmanship too.

“Having Biko as a coach is a blessing, he always make(s) sure the players know everything for the game,” Mukucha said.  “He’s always honest with every single player. He’s one of the reasons I play in the league, him and Coach T (are) making it all possible for me.”

Like Mukucha, Baker and Gordon played soccer together from a very young age. When founding Pride FC, Gordon knew his friend would be a perfect fit.

“When the time came he was looking to get back into the game, it fit together like a puzzle there was no doubt I wanted to work with Rob,” Gordon said. “Biko was a role model for me and I can see he is for the other kids, in soccer and life in general.”

Positive motivation on and off the soccer field is something that this community needs.

“The city is going haywire. A lot of violence going on, the kids don’t know what to do,” Gordon said. “The kids have nothing to do. Soccer is a sport that all you need is a ball and you can play.”

The club unofficially started in summer 2016 with impromptu games and players just showing up. Pride FC formally kicked off in November 2016 and has been growing in popularity ever since. Pride FC now has a coed U-9 team, and boys U-11 and U-17 teams. Since the club has proven to be a keeper, more teams will be added soon.

On the sidelines, Baker founded Render, a project management company that develops business and engages audiences through digital storytelling. Before that, he served for almost ten years as the Executive Director for the League of Young Voters.  

Whether on or off the field, Baker has continued to make an impact in his community.

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