Sports Envoy
Sports Envoy Program

Neftalie Williams

Skateboarding

Served as envoy

  • 2016  –  Netherlands
  • 2017  –  Cambodia
  • 2021  –  Kazakhstan

Neftalie Williams is the first professor of skateboarding business, media and culture in the United States. and conducts research and lectures at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism in Los Angeles California. Known as “the father of skateboarding diplomacy, and the ambassador of good times” [Bod Boyle, President of Dwindle Skateboard Distribution], Neftalie demonstrates how skateboarding creates a construct identity and global culture, providing a common language and shared experience amongst a diverse transnational community.

Neftalie’s theories identify how emerging sports practioners act as global ambassadors providing the blueprint for a unified youth community across race, and ethnic divides. A recent graduate from U.S.C.’s Master of Public Diplomacy program, his work analyzes the effects of globalization on issues of diversity, identity and youth empowerment, using the lens of emerging sport culture

Drawing on over a decade of experience in the skateboarding industry, Neftalie is currently responsible for nurturing young talent from Havana to Sao Paulo, as team manager to the Citystars skateboarding team, founded by legendary pro skater, Kareem Campbell. He is also a member of the Dusters Skateboarders and Dwindle Skateboarding Distribution family. As a founding member of the Maloof Skateboarding Organization, Neftalie works with the Maloof family donating world-class skateparks to the cities of Queens, New York, Washington, D.C. and Kimberley, South Africa, as well as managing the world’s greatest skateboarding event, the Maloof Money Cup.

In addition to his work empowering and uniting the skateboarding communities of South Africa, Brazil and the Netherlands, as Chairman of Cuba Skate, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit, Neftalie turns theory into practice and uses skateboarding diplomacy to create people to people exchange between communities in Cuba and the U.S. In 2015, their work was the centerpiece of a month long exhibit at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., culminating in the Atlantic magazine documenting them raising the first sanctioning of the Cuban flag in the Kennedy Center’s Hall of Nation’s.

As the former Executive Director of New England Skatecamp, Neftalie helped launch the careers of professional skate luminaries, Ryan Gallant and PJ Ladd and designed skateparks in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Expanding his regional base, Neftalie eventually worked as a member of the Skate Park of Tampa, preparing him to present skateboarding events with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

Neftalie is exploring historical relationships between sport, sports diplomacy and its effect on national history and racial identity, as the Research Director for The African-American Experience in Major League Baseball project (AAEMLB) housed in the USC Annenberg Institute for Sports Media and Society.

Neftalie’s scholarly, instructional, research and media work on skateboarding’s transnational community has been featured domestically and internationally in various outlets including: The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The N.Y. Times, the L.A. Times, Epoca Magazine, The BBC, The Kennedy Center, Public Diplomacy Magazine, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, Time out-Chicago, Transworld Skateboarding, Transworld Business, The Swiss Art Space, G-Shock, the Guinness Book of World Records, Angeleno Magazine, the Robb report, Vapors Magazine, Color Magazine, YRB, Line-Up and FTK Magazines.

Zola Solamente

Soccer

Served as envoy

  • 2014  –  Bolivia
  • 2016  –  Jordan
  • 2016  –  Netherlands
  • 2016  –  Senegal
  • 2017  –  Belarus
  • 2017  –  Albania
  • 2018  –  Tajikistan
  • 2019  –  Bahrain

Zola Solamente began playing soccer at the age of 5, with her older brother and his friends. She continued to play with boys until middle school, when she switched to a female club team. From ages 12 – 17 Zola was a captain of her club team, as well as with the Olympic Development Program, and was a member of the East Regional team, which competed internationally.

Zola played at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 1990-1993. She was a starter at UNC for all four years of her career. She won 4 National Championships, 4 ACC Championships, and was named All-American her senior year. She was invited to play on the US Women’s National team in 1993. She traveled with the team for 2.5 years participating in international tournaments.

In 1995 Zola retired from international soccer to become a mother and pursue a career in fine arts. She now owns Arden Gallery Ltd. in Boston, MA, which she has been directing for 18 years. She continues to share her passion for soccer by providing individual and small-group soccer clinics to female players ages 12 – 18 in the greater Boston area. The focus of these training sessions is to improve technical skills, increase tactical awareness, and deepen strength/fitness levels. Since the fall of 2014 she has been traveling with the US State Department as a Sorts Envoy coaching and mentoring children in under-served and at-risk environments in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.