How These Teen Immigrants Are Getting a Second Chance Through Soccer

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Soccer is the world’s beautiful game, the universal language that unites us in incredible ways. It has the power to help us forget about our daily struggles, and can even help to form and shape new beginnings in different countries.

For immigrant teenagers in the U.S., soccer can be a way to “forget everything,” said Elvis Garcia Callejas in a recent NPR report. “Sometimes you see them in immigration court really worried, and then you come see them play soccer,” he continued. “They are kids again.” Not only can the sport give these youth an opportunity to forget, it can also provide them with vital resources to help build lives in new places.

Photo by NPR
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These youth come to the U.S. for any number of reasons – to find safe spaces, to reconnect with family, to flee from difficulties in their home countries – and now, through their participation in a youth soccer program co-sponsored by New York’s Catholic Charities, a group of them will have a chance to meet Pope Francis upon his trip to New York this month.

Many of these youth fled Central American countries and entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors last year. This meeting provides them with a unique chance to meet a world leader who speaks their language and shares their love for the game. In the meantime, they’re busy brushing up on their San Lorenzo history to surprise the Pope.