More than just a dumb, Atlanta United tattoo

3:26 p.m Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 Sports
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
September 16, 2017 Atlanta - Atlanta United fans cheer before an MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Saturday’s Atlanta United match against Orlando City will be the third at Mercedes-Benz for the first-year franchise, and a new Major League Soccer single-game attendance record is expected to be set in the latest meeting of the southern MLS rivals. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Sam Jones might think his Atlanta United inspired tattoo is dumb, but it’s changing lives.

The idea of getting a tattoo first came to Jones, an Atlanta United supporter and writer for Dirty South Soccer, during the ecstasy of an Atlanta United match in September.

The team hosted the Montreal Impact, and Jones stood in the supporters section anxiously waiting, as he had been all season, for his favorite player midfielder Jeff Larentowicz to score his first goal of the season.

In the 73rd minute, Larentowicz finally scored.

“I started freaking out, jumping up and down,” Jones said. “One of my friends compared it later to a religious experience. ... I don’t know if I spoke in tongues, but I considered it.”

Known for his admiration of Larentowicz’s grace under pressure, work ethic and lack of vanity, Jones’ phone blew up when Larentowicz’s goal put Atlanta United up 2-0.

The excitement caused all reason to leave Jones’ head.

“I tweeted out that if I got 100 retweets — and there was the mistake, only saying 100 instead of 1 million — that I would get a Jeff Larentowicz tattoo,” Jones said. 

Jones’ tweet hit 100 retweets in 26 minutes, and then reality set in.

“I realized I can’t really just get a tattoo based on retweets because I’m not into making that terrible of a life decision,” Jones said.

Being a man of his word, Jones still was set on fulfilling his promise of the tattoo, but decided some good should come out of it.

Fugees Family immediately came to mind.

Jones first learned about the non-profit from writing about Atlanta United supporters group The Faction’s relationship with Fugees Family — an organization in Clarkson that helps resettled children from war-torn countries across the globe find a place in the United States through the universal language of soccer.

What started as a soccer league in 2004 has expanded to a bigger soccer program and the Fugees Academy, a non-profit school for Clarkston’s refugee children. Fugees Academy’s year-round program and small class sizes allow students to conquer a K-8th grade education in three middle school years.

Currently, Fugees Academy has 87 students in the sixth through 12th grade who are from 39 countries spanning across Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Since its founding, the soccer program alone has helped more than 350 children adjust to living in the United States.

In May 2016, Fugees Academy graduated its first 12th-grade class and all of those students are enrolled in college, according to the Fugees Family website.

Outside of schooling, Fugees Academy also engages with refugee parents in areas, providing help with food, housing, health insurance and translating services, among other necessities.

Knowing the impact any amount of money could make in a refugee child’s life, Jones wrote a piece for Dirty South Soccer challenging Atlanta United followers to raise $1,000 for Fugees Family and in return, Jones would get that promised tattoo.

That goal was met in three hours.

When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Jones, his Go Fund Me totaled $4,017 as a result of contributions from fans, Jones’ friends and even a few from those affiliated with Atlanta United, such as President Darren Eales and Larentowicz himself.

Jones’ promise was put into action Oct. 5 by tattoo artist Eddie Stacey at the Ink and Dagger tattoo shop in Roswell.

Stacey didn’t charge Jones for the tattoo because he himself is an Atlanta United supporter who wanted to support Fugees Family and Jones’ cause.

The final product is a palm-sized throwing star on Jones’ back right shoulder.

In the middle of the throwing star, which symbolizes one of Larentowicz’s nicknames, “The Ginga Ninja”, is Larentowicz’s No. 18 on top of five red and black stripes.

Each point of the throwing star has a letter “A”, “U”, “F”, and “C” standing for “Atlanta United Football Club” and one special feature on the top point.

“(Stacey) drew a crown at the top part of (the star) in reference to Atlanta United being the Kings of the South, kind of as a jab to our Orlando City rival,” Jones said.

Larentowicz, when asked by the AJC about his number being tattooed on Jones’ shoulder, said he wouldn’t likely get a tattoo in honor of his favorite athlete, because he’s not a tattoo guy, but he did admire Jones’ dedication.

“I think it shows he’s a man of his word,” Larentowicz said. “That’s good.”

Even with Larentowicz’s support, Jones might still regret his “dumb” tattoo, but he shouldn’t.

The tattoo is palm-sized, but the impact it’s making is immeasurable. 

“The city has kind of come on fire for soccer this year, and it’s been great to see that and to have something that’s not only a great cause but have soccer at its heart,” Jones said. “(Soccer is) really special to me, and that’s why the charity came about. As far as the tattoo, that’s a little dumber, I guess.”

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