When the whistle blew, 6-year-old soccer goalie Dominique Odesola was deep into the beat of an MC Hammer rap, trying to fill the idle time it usually takes for action to get down to his part of the field.
But suddenly, in mid-beat, the squealing Green Team was descending on him, threatening to score and forcing Dominique's dancing feet to move out for a Red Team save.
The shot went wide, and now his team members on the sidelines were the ones doing the hip-hopping.
It was just another Saturday of soccer for 5- to 8-year-olds. Or was it?
Before longtime District resident Jim Farrell decided last spring to put together four teams of neighborhood youngsters to play on the worn field behind the 16th Street NW headquarters of the D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks, there was no Saturday soccer in Mount Pleasant.
If you were a neighborhood child who wanted to play soccer, you had to get your parents to take you across Rock Creek Park to the Stoddard, Lafayette or Hearst leagues or across town to the Capitol Hill League.
That seemed a shame to Farrell, considering the interest in organized ball from a multicultural neighborhood teeming with immigrant families from Latin American and African countries where soccer is the national sport.
"Parents don't want to have to run their kids all over the city just to get them to a soccer game, especially at this age," said J. Scott Hutchison, director of the nearby Lincoln recreation center.
And "frankly, some of their parents are nonexistent . . . but the kids come to the game and play their hearts out," Farrell said.
Farrell, a leader of a three-year-old youth-centered community group called Community Helping All Mount Pleasant Students, said he started the league of 34 boys and 11 girls to bring together the children of this diverse economic and ethnic community who attend 14 different public, private and parochial schools.
Soccer is, he said, "the one sport they can all play together."
So last winter he went to the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission for $600 in start-up money. Then he put together four teams of 11 players to play two games each week on side-by-side fields at 16th Street and Park Road NW. And now, with help from local merchants, the league is largely self-supporting, with just a $10 fee from parents who can pay.
As the season closed last week with a trophy ceremony at the Lincoln center, Farrell said two seasons of play have done more than just foster friendships. They have introduced the youngsters to teamwork and competition and have instilled confidence and discipline, he said.
Aimio Esemuede, an energetic 7-year-old whose family recently came to Washington from Jamaica, said he plays "because it's fun."
So minutes into one game, when several parents and coaches were standing over the little Red Team player after a fall on the pebbly surface, few were surprised to see him get up and trot back to the game.
"I look at the grass in Rock Creek Park and wish the kids had that to play on," head coach Paddy Meskell said with a sigh.
The condition of the field is the least of worries for Farrell and his volunteer coaches. Drug trafficking on and around the hidden playing field on the edge of Columbia Heights has become the larger concern.
Krista Schneider, who helps coach the Blue Team, said she tries to arrive early "to check the field for broken glass and needles."
In late October, Farrell called city, police and neighborhood officials asking for greater police presence and urged parents and coaches to do the same. Officer J.L. Marcucci, who patrols there, said he thinks drug activity in the vicinity has slowed, but his superiors ordered him to patrol the area during the games.
It has become a community effort. A crew of four seventh- and eighth-graders from Abraham Lincoln Junior High School arrive ahead of time to mark the fields, for which the league pays them $5 each.
The Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library recently purchased $100 in soccer books for its shelves and made the library available for coaches' meetings. And several area merchants have offered donations.
"I'm trying to institutionalize this, move the organization to where its self-perpetuating," Farrell said.
"We hope to make this a part of Mount Pleasant for a long time," Schneider said.