“I grew up in a refugee camp in Sudan. We were fleeing the war. I learned how to play soccer in the camp because soccer was a place to have fun and be social. There were people in the camp who didn’t speak the same language but soccer was the way to communicate. My family came to Mobile and was sponsored by Catholic Social Services. I was 14 and couldn’t speak English, so soccer was again how I communicated. I became a coach and the kids taught me English. I love being a coach because it is exciting to watch them grow and be surprised by something they can do. I have learned to pay attention to their tones and what they respond to or how to reach them on a bad day.
I am majoring in politics. I want to go home and do something diplomatic. We left fleeing our country, but now we have a country, South Sudan, to go back to. We are the seed that left and our country has the hope for us to come back. There are a bunch of us spread across the world, and we keep up through Facebook. I wear a bracelet with Sudan’s flag so it is always with me. My sister already went back. She is helping with an orphanage and wants to start a school. After the war, a lot of kids don’t have parents and there is so much that is not being done for them.”
“I met Atem through soccer when he coached my son. We started United Football Club of Mobile about six months ago to bring all cultures in Mobile together and that is what is happening. Atem’s passion for soccer is contagious and kids gravitate toward him. They come together through soccer training and games and are building relationships that never would have happened. We want this to build unity through diversity at all ages.“
“This is a no-judgment zone. Kids just want to have fun. You can tell some are going through hard times and just want something good in their lives. Soccer fills me with joy and I want to share that joy with people who are looking for it.”
(United Football Club is having a Thanksgiving Camp Nov. 23 from 1-4 at Sage Park in Mobile. They say Anyone can come out, even if you have never touched a soccer ball.)