Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Georgia Woman Inspires Refugee Soccer Team

A fascinating account of one woman who is battling on behalf of a small kid's soccer team in Clarkston, Georgia was in a recent NY Times story. I read the paper with much skepticism, but this story was impossible to not read.

It tells the story of a small team of kids - all refugees, from countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia and Liberia - who go by the name of Fugees. What they have endured in the past is beyond horrifying. What the yearn to do as a team and as individuals is nothing short of pure courage and hope, along with a child's earnest desire to play sports and do well:.

Their coach, a woman named Luma Mufleh, is truly inspirational.

Here's a sample from a handout given to her players if they wish to be on the team:

I will have good behavior on and off the field.
I will not smoke.
I will not do drugs.
I will not drink alcohol.
I will not get anyone pregnant.
I will not use bad language.
My hair will be shorter than Coach'’s.
I will be on time.
I will listen to Coach.
I will try hard.
I will ask for help.

Sadly, the town's mayor banned them from playing soccer on a field in a city park.

The town has certainly been staggered and shocked by the arrival of refugees from around the world, part of a federal relocation program. Nearly half of the town's population of 7,400 are refugees, who get 90 days of assistance and then must rely on their own needs for income and housing.

Despite endless obstacles, the coach and the team persist to do their very best on the field and off.

What they have endured, the solid support of a determined Coach Mufleh, and their combined tenacity is a must read. (NYTimes reg. may be required)

In addition, Mufleh also founded a company which employs adult refugees, called Fresh Start. More on the Fugees team is here.

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