The quarter-final soccer match for the 2021 Fall State Cup was about to begin in Murfreesboro, and the team from Memphis had a problem. Tennessee State Soccer Association rules require players to wear socks that match the color of their jerseys. That helps referees keep watch over a game played primarily with legs and feet. The team of teenagers from Memphis, Play Where You Stay, or PWYS, wore black jerseys, but only seven players were wearing black socks.

So PWYS, competing in its first state cup tournament, had to start the match on that cold, rainy last Saturday in October four players short. They put seven players on the field instead of the normal 11.

No matter.

This is a team organized to counter the “pay-to-play” youth sports machine that favors kids with more family resources. This is a team that includes players from 14 Shelby County schools, with links to 10 countries on four continents. This is a team of Black, brown and white sons of refugees and immigrants as well as a few middle-class parents. This is a team of young men who have endured and overcome events exceedingly more traumatic than starting a big soccer match short-footed.

“These kids have met every challenge life could throw at them,” said Jennifer Campbell, a parent who serves as a volunteer team manager. “Nothing fazes them. They have a lot of Memphis grit and a lot of Memphis hustle.”

At the quarter-final match Oct. 30, the Memphis team’s parents and sidelined players hustled to solve the socks situation. Meanwhile, the seven players on the field displayed their grit by keeping the match scoreless for more than 10 minutes.

“It got a little frantic, and we had to innovate, but we got it done,” said Iain Campbell, Jennifer’s son, the team captain and a senior at White Station High.

Someone finally found a roll of black athletic tape. The wrong-color socks were taped over, and the team returned to full strength one player at a time.

Amazingly, neither team scored in the first half.

In the second half, Yoshua Kibasomba, a senior at Central High School, and the most talented player on the team, took a pass, evaded three defenders, and scored the first and only goal of the match. Play Where You Stay, which finished the regular season third in the state’s West division, won the game 1-0, defeating Greeneville, the second-place team in the East. “Greeneville was very tough, very aggressive, but so are we,” said Yoshua, whose family fled violence in the Congo for a teeming refugee camp in Tanzania where he was born.

“The camp was horrible,” said Yoshua, who came to Memphis with his mother, grandmother, and older brother when he was 11. “This is much better. Everything here is better.”

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SOURCE: David Waters Daily Memphian