Photos by Balazs Gardi
Be sure to scroll through all the photos and below to learn more about our participants!
Meet Veronica, from SWB Oakland’s U14 Girls. This is her second year playing with SWB, and as an eighth grader, she’s a senior member of the team. With lots of new players on this year’s team, some games have been challenging—though Veronica can see the positives.
“This season we had a soccer game and we lost and it was really great that no one was mad. We were still nice to each other and we got over it easily. We became a better team because I feel like we connect better sometimes when we lose.”
Moving into the second half of the school year, Veronica has some healthy goals for herself. “My goal for this season is to play better and run faster and be more fit and eat less junk food. I want to be better at shooting. I also want to sleep more at home!”
Now that she’s into her second year with the team, Veronica is in a good position to offer advice to some first-time players. “Don’t be shy and talk to people. When you have friends on your team you learn that you can play better and you’ll make even more friends.”
As we get ready to begin with winter and spring programming in January, we’re excited for everything 2019 has to offer Veronica and her teammates!
Gerardo came to Oakland in 2017, though in the beginning, living in the United States wasn’t easy. “When I first left Guatemala, my life was hard. Soccer was the only thing that made me happy, that made me full in my heart.”
He began playing with SWB a little over a year ago, first playing with the U17 Boys and now, as an 11th-grader, with the U19 Boys. A quick, skillful, and technical player, Gerardo had a successful season with the U19 Boys, scoring and creating goals for his teammates. When looking back on his time with SWB, he picks out his first practice and first game as favorite moments. “My favorite memory with SWB was my first practice. When somebody was talking about me, saying I was a good player. Also my first game. I felt so excited about the game and I gave my best to try to win the game.”
As someone who didn’t always find things easy at first, Gerardo knows what it takes to find success on and off the field, and often does what he can to make new players feel welcome. “When someone is new, I try to talk to them because sometimes people don’t talk to this person. When someone new comes to practice, I always say hi, ask their name, ask where they’re from, and try to make a conversation where they feel comfortable with me and comfortable with the team. I tell new players to try to accept the support of other people. Sometimes I don’t want the help of other people, but you can improve on the field and off the field with the help of others.”
Lar, an SWB Oakland all-star and participant for over five years! Nicknamed Sapo by Coach Tet, he's played for the U14 Boys, U16 Boys, U17 Boys, and now is a captain on the OIHS U19 Boys Team. Sapo is from Thailand, and has fond memories of his early days with Soccer Without Borders. "I loved playing for the first time with the U14 Boys. I met new friends from other countries and even though I didn’t speak any English, I had people to support me and translate for me. It made me want to keep playing with Soccer Without Borders."
As a 12th grader, Sapo is focused on what lies ahead—but still wants to stay close to SWB. "My goal going forward is to do what I can to support SWB. I’m going to go to college soon but because SWB has supported me and taught me a lot, I want to do my best to support other players in the program."
Sapo has years of experience and sound advice for any new participants. "Sometimes you’re going to feel like you’re alone, but if you keep playing for SWB, you’ll meet new people. You’ll have a chance to become part of a family.”
Meet Mohamed, from our OIHS U16 Boys Team. Originally from Yemen, this is Mohamed's first season with SWB. Despite being new to the program, he's made connections with all of his teammates, demonstrating his consistency and dedication by attending over 90% of team events, practices, and games.
When asked about a highlight of his first season, he spoke about his goal-scoring heroics at State Cup, when he scored a game-winning volley with his weak foot. "My favorite memory is going to State Cup. It was the first time I ever scored with my right foot."
Mohamed's advice for new SWB participants is to not be scared to meet new people. "When I came, I only had one friend to help me. He told me to not be shy and to introduce myself to others. Now I have more friends. When someone is new they should say hi to other people to meet their teammates."
Htee is a midfielder on our OIHS U17 Boys team, and has been playing with SWB for over five years. After coming to the United States from Thailand with his family, he joined the U14 Boys team, and has been a leader on each of his teams since. Htee’s favorite SWB memory is going to State Cup with the OIHS U16 Boys last year. “My favorite memory with SWB is playing State Cup and scoring a goal in the semi-final. It was fun to play in a difficult tournament with our whole team.”
With so much SWB experience, Htee knows what it means to take on all the values of SWB. “When there’s a new player I welcome them, help them feel comfortable, and treat them like family.” We’re so proud to have watched Htee continue to grow throughout his years with us, and we’re excited to continue as he works through high school!
Omid is from Afghanistan, and came to Oakland with his family in 2017. After playing for the U14 Boys for one year, Omid moved on to ninth grade, and now plays with the Oakland International High School U16 Boys Team. Even in a short time with SWB, Omid has developed a reputation as a player who never stops working, and often runs the most of any player on the field. His coaches and teammates saw this work ethic on display when the U16 Boys went to State Cup last year. “I loved going to State Cup with the U16 Boys. We played really well and got second place. I never went to State Cup before, so it was a fun trip.”Always striving to improve, Omid is looking forward to 2019 and the opportunities he has in the classroom. “My goal for next season is to get a 4.0 GPA in school. I want to make sure to turn in any late work I have and do all my assignments.” SWB coaches always encourage more experienced players to do their best to welcome new teammates, and Omid has always been someone quick to greet a newcomer. “For a new SWB player I would first say hi and ask their name. I would ask them if they wanted to be friends. This can make new people happier. At my first practice I felt happy because I was making friends, and I want to do that for new players.”
Meet Shiham, a true SWB Oakland legend! A participant since 2014, she first began playing with the U14 Girls, and has maintained a high level of consistency, dedication, and passion as she’s made her way up to the U19 Girls. Now in 11th grade, Shiham is a strong leader on the U19 Girls Team, always bringing the energy, enthusiasm, and attitude. Shiham’s favorite SWB memory goes all the way back to her time with Coach Hel Say. “I loved playing with the U14 girls. Our last game with Coach Hel Say was amazing. We had been winning all our games, but we ended up losing our last game together. We were all crying but I feel like it brought us all together.” With so much experience with SWB, Shiham has good advice for any new player. “For any new SWB player, I would tell them to just be themselves. Everyone here is very different, but we still are able to play together and have fun.”