Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Refugees Find Hostility and Hope on Soccer Field

While this is a year old story, it does highlight one of the problems that soccer faces in this country, where despite the massive overall popularity among players and kids in general, the adults in the country are simply chuckleheads when it comes to the sport.
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 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 Soccer People" are probably your neighbors, friends and colleagues nowadays.

The sport is not one for "pickos," "Commies" or "foriegners." I firmly believe that until the United States starts winning on teh international stage will the typical American arrogance come to realize that just because the sport was born somewhere else doesn't mean it is not a real sport.

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