We had the good fortune of connecting with Luca Marton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Luca, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Without question, the most crucial component to any success is authenticity. When I walk into a new community, one which is not my own, I’m always hyper cognizant of the fact that I am a guest. Even after several years within any particular community, I still act with this mindset, and never presume to know anything, except that there’s a real possibility that there’s so much that I don’t know. By operating under this mindset, a space is provided for stakeholders and participants to take ownership and autonomy of their own programs, operations, and futures, with a steady support from me. Along these same lines, I’ve found that the more I remove myself, and my ego, from a situation, the more success I find in the results. If I don’t take get too high with the highs, or too low with the lows, a certain balance is maintained that keeps me mission aligned. The second I begin to worry about my own personal success, or even my own personal, subjective feelings, is the moment that I start to lose sight of the mission at hand. I am not here to save the world, I’m here to provide a resource, be a mentor, advocate and assist in providing access. If I stay true to those ideals, the success will eventually come, and that success won’t be mine, it will be shared amongst the community.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve always been untraditional in my approaches to my work. I feel that we live in a world that is constantly polarized between right and wrong, black and white, good and bad; with little regard for the gray. I don’t tend to adhere to this binary style of thought, as I feel it’s limiting. From growing up amongst severe mental illness, to my own personal struggles, I’ve always found myself most comfortable in the most unstable of environments. After college, I created and directed a soccer program for children and adults with social and emotional disorders and a variety of other special needs, mainly those on the Autism Spectrum. These have historically been spaces that many professionals run from, whereas I always felt the most comfortable. Ive always found that there is a certain group understanding in the feeling of being misunderstood within what many consider “outsider groups’. Was any of this easy? At times, no, the work itself was and is emotionally exhausting and very difficult. But in all, I’ve been so privileged over such a huge plethora of factors; being a white passing straight male, for example, has made my life relatively smooth. I’ve never been in fear of where my next meal would come from, nor if I would have somewhere warm to sleep at night. These are major distinctions between the work being difficult, and one’s life being difficult. I will never say I’ve had it hard, because in reality, I haven’t. That’s not to say that I haven’t had difficult things happen to me. I’ve been sober for several years now, and there were times where my life seemed unbearable, but all of the privileges that I mentioned made and make my continued recovery more than manageable. When I took over Street Soccer USA’s operations in South Los Angeles, I was so fortunate to have had all of these past experiences from sport, to mentorship, to a strong family structure and a strong recovery program, as they all been the cornerstones of my personal visions for our mission, particularly when working with communities experiencing homelessness, where substance abuse is a common theme. I couldn’t be more grateful for my past.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are so many places that I love in Los Angeles. Coming from New York City, so many folks have this singular lens of what Los Angeles is, vapid celebrity and Hollywood elitism. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the reality. Street Soccer Los Angeles has given me such a wonderful opportunity to explore so many different nooks and crannies of such a sprawling metropolis, that is much more akin to dozens of cities, hidden within unique neighborhoods and separated by freeways. Having said that, I’d say that my favorite place in L.A. is the Last Bookstore on the corner of 5th and Spring in Downtown L.A. I always bring friends there first, spend some time reading from the rare books section and checking out the vinyl collections before heading over to Grand Central Market and grabbing Thai noodles at Sticky RIce, before heading up Angel’s Flight railway and walking over to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Grand Street. Skid Row, a short walk away, has always felt like somewhat of a strange comfort to me as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely traumatic place to live, filled with the plights of the mentally ill, addicts and just those hard down on their luck, but theres a certain humanity and community that exists as well. Through our work with the Union Rescue Mission, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the area in an intimate fashion and I truly believe that everyone needs to see what’s going on, on the ground, before any true judgement can be made.

Watts is of course very close to my heart, and the Imperial Courts Housing Development has utilized a great chunk of my time over the years. People hear words like “projects” and “housing developments” and inherently create negative connotations in their heads. I always want to challenge those preconceived notions.

Finally, at least once a week, I take a short hike around the Elysian Park Hiking Trails with my dog. It’s unusually quiet and the foot traffic, equally so. Whenever I have a friend in town, or if I just need time to myself, these trails are the place that I go to meditate, take a minute to myself, or just read a book, while overlooking downtown.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I was born and raised in New York City. My father, a Hungarian immigrant and psychologist started a museum for the mentally ill on the premises of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens and I grew up amongst a variety of diverse people with diverse challenges within this museum. I learned how to be authentic and true to a mission, while striving everyday to keep my ego in check by watching him. More recently, I’ve been inspired by the work of the Watts Gang Task Force, and the intentional efforts taken by the organization to curb community tension and violence, while amplifying voices that often go unheard. The platform and leadership within the organization has shown me a model to reform social practices from policing to education to public health that I have never seen before. The transparency of communication is relatively remarkable, and the connection between government and community is streamlined in a manner of which I believe is a model worthy of national replication. None of the work that we have done in South Los Angeles or Watts in particular, would be possible without the community leaders, families and participants that I was initially connected to through this Watts Gang Task Force.

Website: www.streetsoccerusa.org

Instagram: streetsoccerlosangeles

Facebook: Street Soccer USA (Los Angeles)

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