April 15, 2007
The Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle (SOCA) provides athletic opportunities to more than 3,500 youth and adult soccer players each season, but not all of those players grew up here in Central Virginia.
13-year-old Fazl Sardar and 14-year-old Austin Nelson are two friends and teammates who play together on a SOCA team.
Sardar came to Charlottesville from Afghanistan, but this team forward doesn't let the fact that he wasn't born in America hold him back.
His English may not be perfect, but Sardar’s coaches say their team speaks a language called soccer.
His coach, UVa student Erika Stiene, said, "They help each other out too, if someone doesn't understand something that we tell them, they'll let them know, like do an example for them, they all help each other out a lot, I don't think there’s really a barrier between them at all.”
The players help each other whether they win games or lose them or whether they're from Albemarle, Angola or Afghanistan.
For the dozens of foreign-born players on local SOCA teams, this international sport has been the bridge that has closed any gaps in America.
“It teaches you different languages and how they lived when they lived in their different countries,” said Nelson.
Another SOCA Coach, Alana McMillan, said, “For them, they bonded very…and then when they are on the field you can’t even tell honestly.”