Exchange-Refugee Soccer

Mohammad Tamim Solhadost, a recent refugee from Afghanistan, goes through a short workout at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Refugee Soccer, a group from Utah, is hoping to welcome Afghan refugees to America, through playing soccer.

Refugee Soccer organizes soccer teams of those who’ve settled in Utah. They gather equipment and help place players on mainstream soccer clubs.

“Really the mission is to bridge the gap between mainstream and refugee communities,” Executive Director Adam Miles told KSL NewsRadio.

It’s Miles who is now leading a group of 10 volunteers to a military base in New Mexico after Christmas to play soccer with Afghans who fled the country this summer.

According to Miles, thousands of Afghans are living on the base near El Paso as they wait for placement in homes around the country.

Miles and his team will head there after Christmas and stay through the first of the year. “Three weeks of concentrated, intense (soccer) clinics, and getting to know these kids and building some relationships,” Miles said.

Miles says soccer allows them to build those relationships.

“It’s creating that bridge between people that don’t look like them, don’t speak their language, and probably don’t practice their religion, but are connecting over the world’s sport — the beautiful game of soccer.”

The group also has another big challenge. Miles said many kids fled Afghanistan with nothing. “They fled for their lives … a lot of these kids don’t have shoes.”

So, Refugee Soccer is trying to collect 500 to 800 pairs of shoes and cleats for the kids to wear. They are asking for donations of new or gently used shoes or cleats. “We have kids up to 18 so adults’ sizes are definitely welcome,” he said.

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