Burmese Students Learn English Through Soccer by Mason Barney
The foundation of every team starts with the bond between players. For some, this bond is established through friendship, a closeness that can only be described as brotherhood. For others, the connection is formed through the similar passion for the sport.
Among these bonds that many athletes relate with, the Snider soccer team faces a rather different form of connection: migration from Burma (now known as Myanmar) to the United States. It is a difficult journey alone to travel to a new country, learn a new language and meet new people. Luckily, there is a collective thirteen players on Snider’s team, all originally from Burma.
Although each player was challenged to learn English, it was the game of soccer that truly acclimated the boys to the unfamiliar culture. Almost all the refugee players and their families came to the United States for a similar reason – a better education and better future.
There are currently more than 6,000 Burmese residents in Fort Wayne, many of whom are divided into different ethnic groups, including Mon, Chin, Karen, Bamar and others. Among the differences of ethnicity for the Burmese residents, soccer brings many together for a friendly competition.
With the mix of Burmese players along with the Fort Wayne natives, at times, there are a few language barriers that become vexing.
“Some of us migrated when we were young, allowing us to accept English and learn it as we grew older,” junior Pau Khual said. “For others, it’s a lot harder because they came when they were about twelve to fifteen, which has been hard for them to adjust to.”
But with the strenuous task of becoming bilingual, the Fort Wayne natives have helped catalyze the learning process.
“There [are] many competitive teams in Fort Wayne. We all want to be better than the other,” junior Pau Lian said.
With over ten ambitious teams all competing for a state title, many are relentless and train harder than ever to advance to the state game.
“Soccer here is very fast and aggressive compared to soccer in Burma,” junior Pau Mang said. “Here, teams are playing to win and advance in the tournament.”
Sophomore Austin Trinh, along with his teammates, set huge goals for the future.
The entire team carries a “melting-pot” attitude, as many of the players learn about each other’s culture and have to adapt to the style of play each athlete has.
“The guys who came from Myanmar are very quick. They have great fundamentals and knowledge of the field, which we hope we can achieve and reach to,” senior Joey Bushey said.
But with a difficult schedule, there are often moments where the team faced adversity.
Junior Shar Paw said, “Facing North Side and Bishop Dwenger were our hardest games. We gave it our all but the teams are very talented and have well-trained programs.”
Despite increasing competition, the soccer team is determined to work even harder to achieve their goals.
“We hope to make it to the state tournament within the next two years. We have put in so much effort and time into this sport,” Trinh said. “With how much we put in and how much care we have for each other, we are no longer teammates, we are a family ready to compete.”
Photo credits to Fort Wayne’s NBC-TV.