"It’s like they’re all from my own country...They’re my brothers."
"Ms. Mufleh made a point never to ask her players about their pasts. On the soccer field, she felt, refugees should leave that behind."
The NYT has an excellent article online about a town named Clarkston, GA, and more specifically, a soccer team in that town. More than half of the town's population are refugees from all over the world. In fact, according to the article, "From 1996 to 2001, more than 19,000 refugees from around the world resettled in Georgia, many in Clarkston and surrounding DeKalb County." As you can imagine hot spots of tension have risen in this community. Sadly enough, one of these hot spots has been soccer.
The article tells the story of a soccer team called the Fugees (short for Refugees), its struggles on and off the field, the power of a game and the bond of teamwork. There are disturbing anecdotes and moments that I found really moving. The primary conflict presented in the article is related to the lack of a home field for the team.
According to the article, as of early January, the coach was using Google Earth to find green spaces in her town where her team might practice. Why? Because the town/mayor has decreed that there will be no more soccer in the town park. "There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor..." The article shows some signs of hope for the mayor at times, with the Fugees being granted 6 months in the town park. However, by the end of the article, they are without a home again.
On the flip side, the article has its moments of hope and redemption. The Fugees have banded together and the bond of the team is strong. You learn how they prevail over some of their hardships and still struggle with others. I highly recommend the multi-media portion. You will get to listen to the reporter, the coach, a player's mother and at some points the players themselves. And since the article is 8 pages long, I am guessing some of you might find the multi-media portion may be an alternative for some.
Access the multi-media presentation here. Highly recommended.
You can read the article here (also highly recommended).
Kudos to World Football Commentaries by Steve Amoia for pointing this great story out.