Last Thursday was Senior Day for the Hellgate Knights soccer team in their final home game of the regular season. Nine players were individually introduced to cheers and applause from family and friends, with some of the loudest cheers for Janvier, a Congolese refugee. Almost pronouncing his name correctly, the emcee introduced him to the assembled crowd and shared a few details, most notably that Janvier is the first Congolese player in the history of the school’s soccer program. And additionally, that one of his future goals is to play soccer in the UK.
Janvier and his family were resettled in Missoula, Montana by the IRC in the spring of 2018. The school year was coming to a close, and unfortunately for Janvier, soccer season had already passed. Once school was over, he spent his free time practicing at fields near his house to get ready for tryouts that were to be held in the late summer. His first year on the team was a big learning experience. According to his coach, Jay Anderson, Janvier was a little quiet and somewhat reserved—he wasn’t yet confident speaking English and wasn’t used to the many drills and training exercises that are typical in the US.
This season, however, with his newfound confidence in English he has become an integral part of the team and Jay says he is known as the team jokester. “Everyone always wants to sit next to me on the bus,” Janvier says. Second to being on the field, Janvier’s favorite parts of being on the team are the long bus rides to and from games. The team plays all over western Montana, with some rides lasting two or more hours. After a game the team will often stop at a grocery store, and the subsequent ride home is fueled by junk food and team bonding.
This will be the last season of high school soccer for Janvier but there are recreational leagues in Missoula that would love to have a player with his skills. Janvier leaves this experience with a busload of friends and great memories. And then there is always the British Premiere League. . .