VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Victory! New Refugee World Cup photos
June 23, 2010 by Kate Sands Adams
|Iraq team - Bay Area Refugee World Cup 2010 Photo: IRC|
Despite all the excitement building up to the FIFA World Cup this month, some of the San Francisco Bay Area's biggest soccer fans were preoccupied with a whole other tournament: the Bay Area Refugee World Cup, held on June 5 and 6 in Oakland.
The tournament, jointly organized by the International Rescue Committee and Soccer Without Borders, brought together more than 80 refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Myanmar who have been resettled in the United States and who share a love of soccer.
A weekend of spirited matches left two teams battling it out for the title of Bay Area Refugee World Cup champion: Kaw Thoo Lei, from Myanmar, and the Bhutanese Union.
The teams proved to be well-matched opponents, their regular-time play resulting in a scoreless deadlock. A goalless extra time period called for a penalty kick shoot-out in which Kaw Thoo Lei triumphed, defeating Bhutanese Union 2-1.
"We all had so many challenges -- language, finding a job, fitting into the community. It's been very hard for many of these guys," Ali Kareem, the coach/goalkeeper for the Iraq team, told Fanhouse. "But playing soccer? It's easy for them. So to win this tournament, it's really important to them.”