Utica City FC and refugee community bond over love of soccer

Utica celebrated World Regufee Day in Hanna park on Saturday. The Utica City Football Club, the area's new professional indoor soccer team, wasted no time getting involved with the community.

Posted: Jun 17, 2018 12:08 AM
Updated: Apr 23, 2019 1:13 PM

What does soccer mean to your culture?

"Everything," said Ghaiath Idrees. "In my country, soccer is in first place. To be honest in every other country. I don't know what's going on with America, but in every other country soccer is the first sport."

Idrees was born in Syria and came to Utica in October 2016.

The UCFC players jumped right in and took the time Saturday afternoon to get to know their new home and the people in it.

"Yeah, it's definitely crazy," said Utica City FC midfielder Liam Callahan. "I'm from Buffalo, and I don't even think there's this much diversity in Buffalo. To come out here and see so much different diversity is pretty amazing. I know a lot of people come from a soccer background as well. Again to have a professional team and something for them to come watch and kind of remind them a little bit of home I think it a very special thing."

Soccer is a universal language and the sport is extremely influential to our local refugee community.

"I used to live in my country and it was in the Middle East," said Mohamed Alhyawah. "We would always play soccer outside any day because we didn't have any internet or electronics so we would just go outside work and then come and play soccer all day long."

"In Burma, we don't have the luxury of playing on a nice green grass so we play mostly on the street, play with our bare feet," said Daniel Cribb. "We see any kind of round ball, tennis ball or any ball that's possible anything that is round, we see it, grab it and play."

"I was playing in a room, I couldn't play outside," added Idrees. "Really dangerous, you always need a roof on top of you. So I started in a room. I got all that ball control in a room. It's tight places in my room, juggling the ball, kicking up the ball, all the skills I learned it by myself. It's the only thing I could learn so I focused on it."

The team's involvement in Saturday's event has left a lasting impression.

"It shows that they are one of us," said Cribb. "If they are truly going to represent our city, them coming among us is such a welcoming sight. I hear one of the players say it's turning into a blue collar team, I hope they will be. I'm sure they're gonna have very very wild and enthusiastic fans here in Utica."

"I would ask them for help on dribbling, juggling, everything," said Mohomed on learning soccer from the players. "Just defense and everything like anything that would help."

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