How the game of soccer and L.A.C.E.S. brought him a new found passion.
Written by: Leah Thirkill
In November, L.A.C.E.S. hosted its 12th Annual Benefit Dinner in Washington, D.C. where our Founder and Executive Director, Seren Fryatt was able to share the 12 year journey that our organization has had and the purpose L.A.C.E.S. hopes to pursue in the coming years. Attendees were able to read the stories of children in our programs in Liberia and learn about their growth while with L.A.C.E.S. These first hand experiences described the lives of our youth affected by devastating societal poverty, the aftermath of the Ebola crisis and Liberia’s long civil war. As important as these stories are to L.A.C.E.S., I, however, would like to talk about another story that was shared that night, the one of Abdul Basir Wahidi.
But first let me give you a little background about Abdul Basir. He is a 15 year old, originally from Afghanistan. He is one of 6 living children of a mother who has borne 13 in total. Of the 6, he finds himself the middle child with teasing older siblings and two younger siblings that he gets to pester in turn. He is part of a lovely family that always opens their doors and hearts to Seren and I when we stop by to visit. They arrived in the US, on October 10th, 2017, the date memorized by all the older children. Abdul Basir would have been 12 years old when they made their move, but he did not hear about L.A.C.E.S. until his friend told him about it a little over a year and a half ago. Since then he has participated in our program throughout the year until he finally aged out during the summer of 2019 and became an assistant coach himself!
At our dinner, he and his spring league soccer coach, Holly sat on a panel. He was nervous and shy while sitting in front of the 80 people in attendance, but he nevertheless made an impression. Although there are no recordings of that night, I have compiled and compressed an interview of the stories shared over the multiple exchanges we had in preparation for the dinner.
Seren: When did you first start playing soccer?
Basir: I didn’t play soccer before, I learned to play soccer at L.A.C.E.S. and now play with friends and people from my neighborhood after school.
Seren: What does soccer mean to you?
Basir: It is life. When I play I am happy, and when I’m not, I am watching my friends play video games, and I do not want to do this, I want to be outside playing soccer.
Seren: How did playing with L.A.C.E.S. when you first came to the U.S. help you?
Basir: I learn many things, I learn respect, and soccer skills like dribbling. With my teammates I have learned English with the help of teammates, because while in school, I can talk with others from my country but with L.A.C.E.S. we are from all over so we have to speak English.
Seren: There are people from different countries on the teams you played on, what was it like playing soccer with people who are from different cultures?
Basir: When we play, everybody is the same to me, there is no difference between us, we are one team.
Seren: What was it like being coached by Coach Holly? What did she teach you?
Basir: Coach Holly is cool. She teach me many soccer skills like dribbling, and passing. She also teach me respect.. Respect is very important, I see on YouTube video clips of many pro-players who have not learned this and it make me angry to see this.
Seren: What did you like about being a coach for L.A.C.E.S. at our Summer Soccer Camp?
Basir: I like being coach because I get to help others and teach others like Coach Holly helped me.