2 Triad immigrants giving kids chance to play soccer outside of expensive clubs

Buckley Report

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — “C’mon, Luther, c’mon Luther, that’s not good enough, son! It’s gotta be better, buddy!” yells Coach Sven Kulovic to one of the young men he coaches in soccer.

Every player Kulovic works with knows that no coach will love them more – have their back more – than him.

Kulovic was born and lived his early years in Bosnia before emigrating to the United States when he was in elementary school. He and his colleague, Steven Tamba, who was born in Liberia, and still sports an accent that hints at that heavily, grew up mostly in Charlotte.

They are trying to run a club in Greensboro and have 40 or so players they work with now. The problem is, they could work with 200 if they had enough fields but Greensboro simply doesn’t have them, right now.

“It’s tough to run a program with the intention of giving back and you don’t have access to the basic things you need,” Tamba said.

And it’s not just clubs. There are hundreds of people – mostly immigrants – who want to play pickup soccer but can’t find open fields, even in city parks.

People like Floyd Hall and Ray Loftus are Greensboro locals who also play soccer and have volunteered their time to try to work with the city to find space for these clubs and pickup games.

“The city has been pretty cooperative. They like to communicate with us really well but they just don’t have many answers because they don’t have too many fields to give,” Loftus saod. “They’re kind of in pre-arranged licenses or rentals or whatever with some of the local soccer clubs so the people who pay a rental fee get access to the fields first. Because they do have a budget, they say, ‘How do I take this field that’s a cost-center to me and how could I get money back?’ So, they rent it out to the private soccer clubs.”

The club that coaches Kulovic and Tamba run tries to operate on a minuscule budget so kids who can’t afford the bigger, private clubs still have an option. Although the coaches would love to produce a professional player, that’s really not the goal.

“For me, soccer saved my life,” Kulovic said. “If it wasn’t for soccer, I would be in the streets, getting in trouble but, for me, soccer kept me in a team environment, something to believe. I believe if you don’t have something to believe in your life, what’s the purpose of living?”

And for Tamba, it’s about spending public money wisely.

“It is a good investment for society because, at the end of the day, we have to deal with kids needing something constructive to occupy their time. We fix it now and prepare them to contribute to society or we get punished for it in the future,” Tamba said.

See more on this subject, including the response from the City of Greensboro, in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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