Desmond Armstrong: A Soccer Player Makes History


History maker is a great way to describe Desmond Armstrong. He set out on an untraditional path in sports which led him to the World Cup as one of the first Black American players. He is now helping Nashville youth follow their soccer dreams. A former defender, midfielder, and member of the United States National Soccer Team; family man, and Nashville resident.  We caught up with Desmond at Lead Academy formerly Cameron High School as he shared with students about his career in soccer during their Black History Month program. He shared his thoughts on Nashville, and his journey to the World Cup, and we got to witness how he is giving back now.


The Road to Nashville

Desmond came to Nashville for his career in soccer with his wife and family of seven children ten years ago. “I got this opportunity to come down and sort of spread my wings, if you will”, Desmond explains. His kids were raised in North Carolina so he was familiar with the culture of the South, but wasn’t too familiar with Nashville.  “I viewed Nashville in the same sense that if we go now and we put some roots down, then I could really establish myself within a profession, raise our family, and then push them out and be a part of the growth of the city.”

Ernest Rodriguez and Desmond Armstrong with students

The World Cup and Giving Back

Charting his own path, Desmond was one of the first Black Americans to play in the World Cup. “I’ve always been out front and so when I hear the term pioneer… you’re the first one out the door and you’re jumping over so many hoops to get where you really wanna go and my folks used to tell me, you gotta be 10 times better…” With his parent’s push to be the best and his hard work and dedication, Desmond attained success playing for Santos FC, a Brazilian sports club, the Maryland Bays, The Washington Warthogs ,and the Charlotte Eagles. Then he would make history in 1987 with the United States National Team, where he played in the FIFA World Cup in the 1990 season.  Desmond explains that being a Black American playing soccer on this level came with cultural collisions as he traveled throughout Europe.  “The year after I started playing soccer we traveled 13 weeks. It’s the first time I’ve ever been on a plane and we went all the way across the water to where soccer originated and that opportunity opened my eyes up to a big and broad world.”

Desmond now spends his time coaching and remains involved in numerous community initiatives including starting the East Nash Soccer, a youth soccer club in Nashville. He often speaks to youth, like we found him doing today. Thank you to Lead Academy chess teacher, Ernest Rodriguez for allowing us an opportunity to tag along in his class and curating a great Black History Month program for the students.

Photography: Elle Danielle


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