Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field

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In this NY Times piece we see a soccer coach who cares a great deal. I think there are a lot of soccer coaches and coaches in general that have a huge impact on kids–adult figures that act like fathers and mothers. This piece is a dramatic example, kids going through unimaginable experiences in just getting to the US, but once again shows how soccer gives them an outlet in dealing with harsh experiences in life. Also, it shines more light on how good we have it here in America, and it’s not the shoes but the heart of the player that matters.

CLARKSTON, Ga., Jan. 20 — Early last summer the mayor of this small town east of Atlanta issued a decree: no more soccer in the town park.

“There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor,” Lee Swaney, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning business, told the local paper. “Those fields weren’t made for soccer.”

In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places. As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.

But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.

‘The boys at the tryouts wear none of the shiny apparel or expensive cleats common in American youth soccer. One plays in ankle-high hiking boots, some in baggy jeans, another in his socks. On the barren lot, every footfall and pivot produces a puff of chalky dust that hangs in the air like fog.’

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