OnSide @ River Falls Community Center

"What's your favorite team?, " I asked a young boy from Syria. He said, Real Madrid. I told him mine was Manchester United. From there we were able to talk about where he was from, and how he played soccer every day in Syria, and how he missed going to the small street next to his house where he would play with his friends. Soccer helped us start a relationship, and it was great that we had that in common.

This was the first Refugee Soccer Day that OnSide had organized and it was a success. It was in collaboration with a nonprofit called KindWorks, and they had organized a job fair for refugees inside the clubhouse, while OnSide gathered all the kids outside for a soccer game. The day before the event we were still trying to get enough donated balls and other things, but thankfully Ian and Max from Leveling the Playing Field were incredibly generous and gave us access to their warehouse, where we were able to take enough used balls, cleats, and pinnies so all the kids could take a ball and a pair of cleats home after the event.

We had about 25-30 kids on the day, from about age 5 to 15, and they were all filled with excitement to be playing an organized game of soccer with each other. We split everyone into teams and played a game to ten, which quickly turned into a game to twenty because nobody had any interest in stopping. Some of the young girls who didn't really know how to play soccer found it funny that you couldn't use your hands in the game, and then promptly found soccer boring and played with my dog Luna instead, chasing her around the field and putting a pink bow on her head!

It was exciting to actually put OnSide's mission into practice and see how we could cut across barriers of language and culture and become friends through the game. This event gave me a great sense of what worked and what didn't and I am excited to get another project like this started.

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