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Amid chaos, young Afghan refugees find something familiar in St. Louis — soccer – St. Louis Public Radio

Dance music boomed as about 35 kids ran around and chased soccer balls flying through the air on a recent Saturday afternoon at STL Futbol Club.

The children all fled Afghanistan with their families in recent months, after Taliban fighters seized control of the country in August.

At the indoor sports complex near Forest Park, older boys played on one field, younger boys on another while the girls were together on a third field. They shouted to each other in Farsi, Pashto and bits of English.

The International Institute organized the 12-week soccer program, which will continue through the end of April.

“A lot of times when we’re trying to work in a crisis, we’re focused on food. We’re focused on shelter,” said Moji Sidiqi, program manager for the Afghan Support Program, a cluster of relief efforts spearheaded by the International Institute and other local aid groups. “But then there’s this aspect of being a child. Being out and about with your peers, and just being children.”

Sidiqi, 31, joined the International Institute about a month ago. She can relate well to these children: Sidiqi too fled Afghanistan as a child, and she lived in Moscow for a few years before landing in St. Louis at age 9.

Most of the young soccer players gathered on this day are still living in hotels while the International Institute works to secure long-term housing for the new arrivals. They all qualified for a special refugee visa because adults in their families worked alongside U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, an act that could expose them to retaliation from the newly ascended Taliban.

Jeremy D. Goodwin

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St. Louis Public Radio

Some of the older Afghan children play soccer at STL Futbol Club on a recent Saturday. The weekly program will extend through the end of April.

After spending a lot of their time in hotels since arriving in town, the children were happy to have something fun to do.

“Soccer is good for health. I like to play with the other guys,” said Zubair, a 15-year-old who has been in St. Louis for two months, following a five-month stay in New Jersey.

He said some of his friends are good cricket players, but they also appreciate the chance to play soccer.

St. Louis civic leaders have pledged to relocate more than 1,000 Afghan refugees. The International Institute has been ramping up its capacity for months, securing a $1.5 million grant from Pershing Charitable Trust to help with resettlement and adding staff. The organization had scaled down during the Trump administration, when the flow of refugees to the region became a trickle.

A refugee command center that includes representatives from Welcome Neighbor STL, Oasis International and the International Institute is overseeing the logistics related to resettlement efforts. The Afghan Support Program, which local groups announced in January, includes plans to create an Afghan chamber of commerce, a community center, computer training and other programs to help Afghans build a lasting community in St. Louis.

“We’ve been told there’s no program like this in the United States for Afghan refugees,” said attorney Jerry Schlichter, co-founder of the nonprofit startup competition Arch Grants. “It’s a very comprehensive program that we’ve developed to have the most welcoming community in America for Afghan refugees.”

Schlichter had the idea for soccer …….

Source: https://news.stlpublicradio.org/culture-history/2022-03-29/amid-chaos-young-afghan-refugees-find-something-familiar-in-st-louis-soccer

Dance music boomed as about 35 kids ran around and chased soccer balls flying through the air on a recent Saturday afternoon at STL Futbol Club.

The children all fled Afghanistan with their families in recent months, after Taliban fighters seized control of the country in August.

At the indoor sports complex near Forest Park, older boys played on one field, younger boys on another while the girls were together on a third field. They shouted to each other in Farsi, Pashto and bits of English.

The International Institute organized the 12-week soccer program, which will continue through the end of April.

“A lot of times when …….

Dance music boomed as about 35 kids ran around and chased soccer balls flying through the air on a recent Saturday afternoon at STL Futbol Club.

The children all fled Afghanistan with their families in recent months, after Taliban fighters seized control of the country in August.

At the indoor sports complex near Forest Park, older boys played on one field, younger boys on another while the girls were together on a third field. They shouted to each other in Farsi, Pashto and bits of English.

The International Institute organized the 12-week soccer program, which will continue through the end of April.

“A lot of times when …….

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