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Utah nonprofit helps Afghan refugees connect through soccer

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 19:50:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of Afghan refugees are still awaiting resettlement after evacuating Afghanistan in August. Many have transitioned out of military bases, but five months later, some remain unsettled. That’s why a Utah-based nonprofit is working to help those still in limbo feel a little more at home.

“They fled for their lives, literally with nothing. We all saw the pictures over the summer. Then they’re shipped to different bases internationally, then they find a temporary home on a military base,” said Adam Miles, the founder of Refugee Soccer.

Life on those bases is lonely. Evacuees must be cordoned off for their safety, but it’s hard to connect in a new country with a different language while still stuck on base.

Miles recently made the trip to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

He drove down twice, with a car loaded full of 400 pairs of shoes donated from around the community.

“The opportunity to go and play soccer as a release for these kids. They just love it. America’s just getting on board — we’re kind of the last to get on board with how amazing soccer is, but it is the world’s sport, and they call it the beautiful game for a reason,” said Miles.

He says they worked with a couple hundred children at the clinic, of all ages. Everyone wanted to play.

“It kind of blows me away just how polite and wise and how strong they are, and optimistic. The vast majority do not speak any English, but they understand soccer,” said Miles.

He founded Refugee Soccer to bridge the mainstream and refugee communities through the sport.

“Regardless of skin color and religion, we are just the same humans. We all want and need the same things. It takes so little to do so much,” said Miles.

He’s now looking to start a local chapter for Afghan refugees to continue to have that sense of community through soccer.

“To watch the smiles on these kids, that’s the whole reason I do this and will keep doing it,” said Miles.

Miles says the military is continuing to dismantle the temporary village they had on Holloman AFB, and they expect to have people completely transitioned by the end of this month.

He says they’re expecting another wave of evacuees to arrive in the coming weeks, and he plans to continue his soccer clinics.

To volunteer for the Refugee Soccer program, click here.