Pinny lanes | On the margins and in the barrens, soccer gains a foothold

Local youth clubs have noticed the talent on offer. Win Zaw, 14, of the Karen refugee community from Burma, played with former Burmese national-team members at refugee camps in Thailand. One hundred and twenty more Burmese families are due to be resettled in coming months. “[T]he only word they had to hear was “soccer,’ ” says youth coach Mike Koperda of the new arrivals, “and that was enough to inspire them.”

Moving south, the annual International Festival in Baltimore from Aug 5–6 featured a soccer tournament. “It reminds me of my home country,” Sergut Admasu, of Ethiopia, told the Baltimore Sun while watching Ethiopia versus El Salvador. “You don’t see people [here] playing soccer this often.”

The Washington Post published a recent front-page feature on the attraction of area Latino soccer leagues—and the relatively lucrative construction jobs that go with them—to professionals from Central America (Nick Miroff,Constructing Lives Off the Soccer Field,” Aug 7). For example, Calros Nerio of El Salvador, working in suburban Virginia in the off-season and playing for Liga de Manassas, “makes more in a week installing windows and doors than he made in a month as a pro fútbolista.” More than 30 Latino men’s leagues field teams in Washington, with between 8,000 and 12,000 players competing each weekend. (See also 11 Apr 06.)

Finally, lest one think the grassroots phenomenon is confined to the Northeast and Atlantic states, the Kansas City Star reports on a local league for African teams (Peter Makori,Soccer Brings Together Kenyans in KC,” Aug 13). Kenya FC brings together former Kenya Premier League players, but, again, serves a unifying function and as a bridge between ethnic camps.

“Since we formed this team, we always have reason to meet,” says Nassir Ali, president of the Organization of Kenyans in Kansas City.


In the Washington Post on 5 Nov 06, David Montgomery details how soccer flavors the memory of Oscar Antonio Argueta, a day laborer who died suddenly following a match sponsored by Maryland immigrant advocacy group CASA (“One Final Gift”).

He decorated the apartment with photos of his soccer teammates. He played in two leagues. He asked [fiancee Dilcia Areli] Banegas to wash his uniforms extra carefully, by hand. Sometimes he would come home with his feet so swollen that he said it was time to hang up his cleats. But by the next weekend, he’d be eager to play again.

“He used to say, ‘I’m going to die playing,’ ” Banegas says.

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1 comment on this post.
  1. Brian:

    Minor correction: Utica, New York, is a city. Its population is around 60,000. It may be a hole (though, in fairness, I haven’t been there in about eight or nine years), but it’s not exactly a hamlet.

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