15 October 2010

soccer, as in life

Darren's soccer players make me happy. Some he has coached since they were 10 years old. They are men now approaching 18. I still chill "lucky jello" before each game. The majority of the team have family in Mexico. What a privilege to get to know their stories. Driving them to Salt Lake for a game a few weeks ago I asked them to tell me about the cities and towns they come from. What richness and excitement. Tales of the architecture and amazement that is Mexico City. An 18 meter raised highway and a giant flag were captured on their cell phones and shared with me. They include me. Have even offered that I could "tag along" to Mexico one day. One young man joined the army last week. A 3.7 grade point average, 5 AP classes passed, a full-time job. Another young man wants to be a pediatrician. Another is a completely different soul after being baptized into a Christian church. I was immersed in in his conversion story. Another lost his brother and sister and cousin in a car accident. He broke his back and cracked his skull, wide open. Do you not want to just go and hold his mother? They are all fairly sheltered, polite and upstanding. They bring their younger siblings to the games if they are babysitting. They ride their bikes. Staying at Darren's parents in SLC walking home from a Real Salt Lake game they were terrified of the neighborhood. I giggled. And so last night at a game I was so disappointed with some behavior. Parents from the opposing team taunted them from the sideline. "Whoa, we better call the cops, I bet they have switchblades." Are you kidding me? "At least we don't fall down like little Mexicans." The coach yelled out, "That's not racist it is just stating the obvious." Now, I can't pretend that I have never been racist. I grew up in Utah without much diversity. My mother grew up in a town that she said at the time had, "one Lutheran." I am awful at Aggie football games. I shouldn't be allowed to sit so close to the opposing team. I catch myself being rude in the "name of humor" more often than I should be.  I have learned over the years that it is usually ignorance and fear of difference. But, I have also learned that listening to the person's story is more powerful than a sledgehammer in breaking down barriers. I ran out to the refs after the game and stated, "You can't let intimidating words change the game like that. They are not simply "Mexicans" they are young men playing soccer." They tied the game. They handled themselves like men. They were joyous. Words are power - for good and for bad.

At the end of August Luma Mufleh, coach of the Fugees, spoke for convocation. I had read "Outcasts United" at the suggestion of a friend. The students gave her a standing ovation. I had chills. She spoke about feminism, racism, America, truly a land of opportunity. A Muslim woman finding a strong purpose, guiding and loving and coaching refugee children and families through this new life in America. She didn't sugarcoat or gloss over the struggles. I was inspired. I wish I put words into action more often in my life.

 the team playing Africa United, a refugee team from SLC
(they were not playing this team when the above described incident happened)

don't you wish you could run like that?

keeping an eye on the ball
 the look on all their faces is priceless.


Like I said, words are power... words into action... goooooaaaaaalllllllllllll.


Sara Jane said...

I didn't know Darren was coaching soccer. How fun and just the bits of their amazing lives is fun to read about. It's amazing how we are so quick to jump to conclusions about people.

Anonymous said...

DEEEEEEE, Please write a book!

Kaitlan said...

I can't believe how big they are now. I want to come watch a game.

AnnDeO said...

Darren has been coaching for a long time - he loves it. In fact, Kaitlan was his assistant for a couple of seasons.

Kaitlan, you should come watch them play - 3 games left.