What is the most difficult part about immigrating to a new country? The different culture, an entirely new place, or simply surviving and completing day-to-day tasks in an unfamiliar setting? What if you do not speak the native language? Many members of a local professional soccer team are relatively new arrivals from other countries, and each has had his share of challenges.
Lucas Paulini, a recently signed Richmond Kickers pro player, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and came to the United States in 2007 at the age of 18. Paulini’s grandparents are originally from Germany, which led to him attending a German high school in Argentina, “I speak German, Spanish and now, of course, English.” Paulini says that the U.S. is culturally quite different, “We have dinner around nine or ten p.m. [in Argentina], here it’s usually six.” When Lucas arrived at Tusculum College in Tennessee for his freshman year of soccer, he, “knew a little [English], I could communicate, but… didn’t understand most of the words.” It wasn’t until Lucas transferred to VCU for his senior season in college that he became fluent, “My first year here, I learned… and my vocabulary expanded… also the accents differ from city to city… so everywhere I went, it was a little different.” Lucas is grateful for the opportunity to experience a new culture.
Matthew Delicate, a long time fan favorite for the Richmond Kickers, is from the Garden of England, also known as Kent, “where we speak the Queen’s English.”
Delicate came to the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 18 and played for the VCU Rams. Delicate tells about some of the hardest changes: “I missed having a proper English breakfast with good sausages.” Despite speaking a very similar language, “no one could understand anything I said. Every time I went to a restaurant and asked for a glass of water, I had to repeat myself ten times… They’d be like, ‘What are you saying, sir, a ‘bottle of water,’ and I’d actually have to say a baaaaatttttle of waaaaaaaahhhhttter until they understood me.” Perhaps his waitress was too enraptured by his good looks to understand what he was saying.
Owusu Sekyere was born in 1986 in Kumasi, Ghana and came to the U.S. in 2006 at the age of twenty. Owusu knew English and his, “local dialect, Chichewa.” Culturally, Owusu was surprised by the fact that, “after games, guys would go out … because back home in Ghana if you are a soccer player and you drink alcohol or you party a lot, it classifies you as not a good player.” Linguistically speaking, “my accent, it was hard for some people even on my team to understand me… I had to repeat myself sometimes four or five times for people to understand what I was trying to say.” Owusu’s coach worked with him to help break down the language barrier. Owusu’s favorite part about the U.S. is, “how you get opportunities in so many ways… how you are able to go to school and get a degree, then if you have a talent you can use that talent and get more opportunities to do something with your life.” Owusu loves the liberty that comes with playing soccer in the U.S.
Yudai Imura was born in Tokyo Japan, and came to the U.S. last year at the age of 23. Yudai did not know any English, nor did he have a translator when he first arrived in the US. He is very much still in the learning process.
Yudai has noticed that the, “pronunciation is different” and the people, “don’t sound [the] same.” At first, communicating was at times quite difficult when he first came to the U.S. Yudai ran into some trouble making hotel reservations, because when “I arrived at the hotel… it was closed and a taxi took me to… a different hotel.” Sometimes something gets lost in the translation, but he continues to work and improve on his grasp of the language. Yudai holds many the same beliefs and pride as most Americans, admitting that the US is the, “Greatest country ever… I want to stay.” However, there are differences culturally from Japan, it is a custom for “People [to] take their shoes off,” and the food is nothing like the cuisine in Japan. Legend has it that Yudai is incredible at Super Smash Bros, and almost unstoppable with Pikachu.
Soccer, the most beautiful game man has ever played, presents a universal language to be spoken and a common bond to be formed across cultures. While all of these people speak different languages, have different skins tones, and have different beliefs, they all have soccer to bring them together. Through the adversity, a different culture, a new setting, and a new language, they all have separate and individualized stories to tell through the tongue of soccer.