So when I last left you readers I was pondering an indoor soccer team to honor my lost family members- and less than a month later I have almost twenty players signed up and two teams under the Panther Elite banner. We also were just featured on the front page of the Sunday Concord Monitor newspaper- so yeah a lot of big things happening this past month.
I am making sandwiches. Chicken, turkey, ham, on a small sub role with cheese. I am my sister making lunches for her kids- my kid’s just happen to be over a baker’s dozen of soccer players who don’t always have enough food at home. So I hit the grocery store on game days, and then to Dick’s to buy three pairs of indoor soccer shoes for the game tonite, and to look for a goalie jersey with the padding for my rec team goalie- the goalie gloves I just bought him are already broken in from all the practice he does at the park by his apartment complex. There is no soccer nets there but he makes do regardless. They didn’t have any youth sizes so I venture to the soccer speciality store next to the rat pizza arcade with the animatic prog rock band and find the perfect jersey; the one with the special padding on the elbow to help cushion his dives on all the goals he will stop.
I am currently better at making sandwiches then winning games. My sandwiches work well together- the cheese spilts in perfect half to evenly cover the sub roll, the meat nestles in between the cheese- as the bread engulfs it all in a warm hug. My team has yet to gel so perfectly. Although we are supremely talented we have yet to come together as a team. We haven’t won any games yet-we are 0-4, but my talent for delicious sandwich making is spreading and apparently getting players wanting to sign up for the team. Also spreading is the fundraising efforts for funding the team. I am overwhelmed, and humbled by the generosity shown so far. We have raised almost $3, 000 dollars so far!
I think one thing I want to highlight is where these kids come from, and the horrors they have endured. After the newspaper story came out my smallest player, who I am pretty sure is so strong he can carry twice his body weight, and can also charm you with a smile even when when he is being mischievously naughty, asked “So, Coach your brother killed your sister.” I told him yes, and he looked at me perplexed, “Why not you too?“ So I told him, “My brother was suicidal, and she went over to help him. But his brain was broken- like he wasn’t himself because he was sick. So he didn’t mean to kill them it just happened. And that’s why he didn’t kill me. He didn’t mean to kill anyone.” “Ohhh…ok.” Fully satisfied with that answer he got into line simply stating, “I am going to get breakfast now Coach.”
The interaction was unique in he didn’t react in the typical American student fashion- the idea of murder of family was not a unique concept to him and he was more curious at the why he did it. He also approached to ask me very straight forward in the same way he would ask what time the game was- or was he starting tonight.
I coach kids from Nepal, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and beyond. Some have arrived as recently as 2019-others as far back as 2012. The Assistant Manager- my nickname because his brain sees soccer better than his body allows him too right now- lost his brother in a car accident this past summer. Sometimes he speaks as he is still alive- even though he understands he is dead. I get it- sometimes it’s just easier to think of that person as still alive because their presence still burns so hard in your heart. These players come from families with intense trauma. They have witnessed their family killed, raped and kidnapped. So my goal is to make lasting new memories from them. Whether the pure enjoyment they get from blasting and singing along to CJ’s Whoopty and being addicted to blue cheese on the ride home from games, or gorging on the mouth watering chocolate covered pretzels my mother expertly baked for them-
it’s trying to make this team as much as family as possible, and give them the confidence they might be lacking. And while our record and on field teamwork is experiencing some growing pains- we are filling the net with memories that can never be forgotten. Which to get corny for a minute is all that really fucking matters in the end.