We’re sitting down today with Jonathan Parsons and Renato Rossiter of World Relief to talk about a new role they both took on this past June: Coach. The World Relief Football Club finished its first indoor season in August and started their first outdoor season on September 15th, winning their game 11-0.
World Relief: How long have you been working at World Relief?
Parsons: “I was kind of born into it. My mom was a refugee and my dad helped open the office in Fort Worth, so growing up I always went to events and was always hanging around staff and refugees. But I started working on staff in the spring of 2008.”
Rossiter: “[I started] volunteering with World Relief in February 2017. I’ve officially been on staff since March 20th this year.”
WR: What are common things you see among families, regardless of nationality?
P: “Heartiness, the ability to adapt to difficult things that I would be a wimp about and they very much handle it in stride as if it’s normal.”
WR: Why did you start the World Relief Football Club?
P: “I grew up playing soccer, and I knew how much it meant to me growing up, how much I anticipated games and practices - it was a draw for me. It’s really hard to play competitive soccer because of all the paperwork and the cost, and I knew that none of our boys would be able to have that opportunity. I knew the boys would love it- probably even more so than I did growing up. I’ve felt a call to [start the team] for about 3 years. When Reanto came along, I knew I couldn’t put up excuses anymore.”
R: “I wanted to be a professional soccer player growing up [in Brazil], but when I realized I wouldn’t be able to, I didn’t want anything to do with soccer. I loved watching it and I loved playing it, but I didn’t want to work with it. When I came to America, I thought that I would be working with other sports like tennis or baseball, but I felt that God was calling me to work with soccer. For me it was easy to say, ‘Lord, if you want me to, I’ll do it.’ Jonathan approached me about the idea, and for me it was an easy decision to say yes.”
WR: Who is on your team?
R: “We have 16 players on our team representing South Sudan, Congolese kids who grew up in Tanzania and Kenya, kids from Somalia, and two kids of different ethnicities from Burma, all 11-13 years old. We practice twice a week with about 20-25 boys. The remaining boys aren’t able to play games because they’re not in the right age category or weren’t able to get their registration paperwork complete in time.”
WR: What challenges, if any, do you face as a coach?
P: “The kids speak languages I don’t understand…they immediately switch to their native language if I get on to them for saying a bad word in English, which can present difficulties. Parents aren’t able to be very involved because they have to work all the time. There are some kids that can’t be on the team, due to being older or younger, who come to practice and distract our boys.”
WR: Where do you see strengths in your team?
P: “We’re strongest in a deep understanding of soccer. A lot of the really good boys on the team have this natural instinct to play. It’s ingrained in their culture. Americans that play soccer, they learn it differently. They have strict practices and go to all of these programs to learn how to get better, but these kids just have a natural instinct. They go out and play because they love it, and they don’t get burnt out so fast by the sport like American kids do. Another strength we have is that we’re different…we intimidate other teams a little bit (Parsons chuckles). We just look different and people notice, and they’re automatically intimidated by it.”
R: “[The kids’] love and passion for the game because they come from countries where soccer is the national sport. It’s a part of their blood and their heritage. They know all the players, the games, and iconic moves.”
P: “[Soccer is] what they do all the time. Sometimes I just drive by in [the apartment complex], and I just see the kids out playing soccer for fun after school. It’s rare seeing American kids do that anymore.”
WR: What’s your favorite memory from last season?
P: “Winning our first game…but even before that, some of my best memories are the kid’s reactions when they scored goals and how much they care about their success. Seeing a boy drop to his knees and point to heaven like a pro is priceless. I get such a kick out of it. Seeing their genuine excitement when they scored or won, even when they got mad at each other, they’re all just so passionate – it’s fun to see that passion and drive.”
R: “When the boys were winning their game and they knew we were going to win, they all started counting down with the clock and jumped in the air at the final buzzer. It was fun to see their excitement.”
WR: What do you hope for in the new season?
R: “I just want to continue to see them playing well as a team, having fun, and not yelling at each other.”
P: “We voted in captains for the new season, and I really want to see the captain’s character develop, growing more in maturity and leadership.”
You can find World Relief FC’s game schedule at https://bit.ly/2xv2Y6w For each child to play in the fall league, it costs approx. $100 per child. Are you interested in sponsoring one of the players? Or serving in other ways through providing rides to the games, snacks afterwards, or even helping coach? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.