Sacramento Republic FC Staff Join Folsom State Inmates for Game Behind Prison Walls

FOLSOM -- There was no trophy to be won, no financial reward to be gained, nor was there thousands of fans chanting in unison Tuesday night.

There was only tight security and the mutual love of the game.

About once a month, a plot of dirt deep inside Folsom State Prison becomes a soccer pitch. The two teams are a mix of staff members for Sacramento Republic FC and inmates.

They are prisoners like Kelvin Chapman, who is serving a life sentence.

"This is our house, so to speak," Chapman said. "So, you know, we are always here to defend our home court."

It all started when a coach at the prison reached out to the soccer team to come play. Republic FC accepted that invite and have been coming back on a regular basis.

"Once Sac Republic started showing up for these games every five, six weeks, we’ve developed a great relationship, a great partnership with the team," said Rick Hill, the warden at the jail.

Inmate Mike Gowlick said he has been incarcerated for the past 20 years. For him and others, a simple game with some outsiders brings them closer to the outside, if even just emotionally.

"Makes us feel like people," he said. "Makes us feel like we are part of the real world once again."

It has been a few months since this all began. Tuesday's game was the first one news crews were allowed to document because Republic FC said they wanted to prove to the inmates this is more than a publicity stunt.

For Republic FC head coach Simon Elliott it's a relationship that has benefited both sides.

"We get the opportunity for human moments," Elliott said. "Doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, in this moment you get to play soccer and get to talk a little bit. It’s a special thing, it's become a really special thing for the club over the past few months."