Vincent Mkhwanazi

Vincent Mkhwanazi communicates in small-sided play during his Steel City FC U21 team practice at Kankakee High School last week.

Kankakee boys and girls soccer coach Vincent Mkhwanazi was exhausted Sunday, but it couldn’t have been more worth it. That exhaustion came the day after he, Kankakee High School and Steel City FC — a Joliet-based semipro team Mkhwanazi serves as technical director for — hosted a day full of action at Kankakee.

After a two-hour kids camp, three soccer games were played on the turf. The Kays’ boys team picked up a 3-0 victory against New Lenox-based Legacy Soccer Club before the under-23 Steel City squad, comprised primarily of local high school and recently graduated boys players under Mkhwanazi’s guidance, earned a 7-3 victory against a team of former area standouts.

Those two contests served as appetizers for Saturday night’s main course, the first-known professional soccer game in Kankakee, which matched up Chicago House FC and Steel City. A professional club from the National Independent Soccer Association, House scored a pair of early goals before Steel City was able to bunker down defensively. Steel couldn’t come up with the offensive firepower required and ultimately fell 2-0.

For Mkhwanazi, the final scores were the last thing on his mind after such a wonderful weekend.

“My highlight was just seeing it all take place, seeing everything unfold,” Mkhwanazi said. “When you look at it, it’s possible for those type of events to take place; it’s just about getting the community there.

“We knew it would take place and talked about it, but it’s another thing when it’s actually happened.”

Mkhwanazi noted how much growth he’s seen in the local soccer community during the past few years but also said he sees how much potential there still is for continued growth and success.

“I think, from a personal perspective, I’m just hoping it will lead us to those bigger situations where we can improve the quality of life for these kids and they can realize that talent can open doors,” Mkhwanazi said. “We’ve gone this far and now we have to continue to go forward as a community and continue having conversations with coaches on how we can improve the environment for soccer in the area.”

Mason Schweizer is an award-winning reporter who has been with the Daily Journal since 2017 and sports editor since 2019. Save for time at the University of Illinois and Wayne State College, Mason is a lifelong area resident.