Nations United: Soccer unifies refugee students in Boise

Nations United: 1 team, 1 dream, 1 home.

BOISE -- They may not have started on the same home team, even the same continent, but now, a group is unified by hope and a dream

Last fall, South Junior High librarian Mary Karol Taylor began to notice more students, specifically refugee students, asking for books about soccer.

Taylor became increasingly aware there was another story worth reading into amongst her own collection of books.

Soccer, or futbol as the rest of the world calls it, is a language communal in itself. No need for words, just a passion and love for the game.

Back in their home countries, they all participated in soccer.

"We had a ball and it was always flat and the goals were just like big rocks on the two sides. We just played," said Sajad of his home in Iraq.

"We used to play in the dirt, not in the grass," said Hamsa of his native Somalia.

But when they arrived in the States, playing soccer wasn’t high on their families’ priorities list.

"It was heartbreaking to hear that they're not on a team. I just really wanted to make it happen for the kids," Taylor said.

With some help from private funding and donations, Mrs. Taylor’s idea was put into motion.

Taylor found Fawad Saheb-Khan, a refugee himself, to coach "Nations United." Saheb-Khan knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles at a young age after coming to America from Afghanistan.

Almost immediately, Saheb-Khan developed a special bond with his roster full of refugee students.

"It means a lot to me because of everything those kids have went through, each and every one of them," Saheb-Khan said of coaching the team.

"He has done an amazing job with these kids," Taylor said.

The glue keeping the solidarity of this team together comes in the form of Mrs. Taylor, who doubles as team mom, team doctor, team bus driver as well as the team’s biggest fan.

"If I have to go pick up kids and drive across town to pick up kids or take kids home, ask for more money… I'm pretty committed and I want to make this a success for these kids."

With the help of Taylor and Saheb-Khan, Nations United not only competed, but won their league, consistently beating teams throughout the Treasure Valley.

The students bought into the bigger vision their librarian instilled in them, a real-life lesson that anything is possible if you believe.

"It means everything, for someone to feel a sense of belonging? That's everything," Taylor said.

A lesson learned, a dream achieved.

One team, one dream.

A goal achieved through unity.

"It's possible to achieve anything you put your mind to," Saheb-Khan said.

Nations United will play together again this spring before moving on to play for their junior high and high school teams.

Taylor hopes that even once this year’s team moves on, other students will put on the Nations United jersey for seasons to come.

The hope is for future refugee students in the Treasure Valley to always have the opportunity to play soccer and chase their dreams, regardless of their background.
 

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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