"I Love Soccer" Opens Big Opportunities for Children in Haiti

05/15/17

One common passion unites most of the world: soccer. Steven Mizecki, COTN's Global Volunteer in Haiti, decided the children in Haiti should get in on the action too, so earlier this year he created a new COTN initiative called I Love Soccer

“I started this program just because of the love I have for soccer,” says Steven, a former COTN child from Malawi.

As a kid, Steven says soccer developed his mind and body, and helped him build friendships. It instilled in him a work ethic, and a determination to see things through to the end. And it allowed him to share his love of Christ.

But after Steven created the initiative, he couldn’t wait for it to become fully funded. He believed the kids needed it right now. He decided to use his own money to buy two soccer balls to get the team started. 

Steven has really enjoyed sharing his passion for soccer and Christ with the children in Haiti. 

Steven hasn’t regretted his decision. He enjoys sharing his passion for soccer with the children he serves in Haiti. And like him, they love soccer. “They say this has removed boredom of just staying at home or just watching old people playing. They now have a chance to play as well,” Steven says. The children tell him, “I will be a soccer star and you will be watching me on the TV. I will be the Haitian Cristiano Ronaldo, the Haitian Lionel Messi.”

“They are all determined for greatness,” Steven says.

When tryouts opened, 71 children showed up. Steven has spent weeks trimming that number down to 30 of the best players. Now the team practices three to five times a week. They will be playing local soccer club teams and school teams. Their first game is scheduled for June. 

Steven also has a plan for the boys and girls who didn’t make the cut. “We will have a lot of games that the kids will be playing with the help of the volunteers from our program,” Steven says. With the help of volunteers he wants to establish weekly games for every child who want to play.

Not surprisingly, starting a new project in this part of Haiti hasn’t been easy. The soccer field they practice on isn’t nice and flat. You can see bare dirt and stones. Steven needs a volunteer assistant coach and the children need soccer gear and resources. “The problem is that most kids play barefoot, which is not safe for them to play a game,” Steven explains. The lack of gear is demotivating for some of the kids and their parents. Some of the children come late to practice or not at all. 

But despite all this, Steven is working to teach the children the value of consistency in attending soccer practice. Already he’s seen big changes in the children. In the beginning some of the children struggled with the drills. But Steven has seen their skills improve. Perhaps even more importantly, the children are developing new friendships and learning the value of discipline and working together as a team. Some of the children are even taking the lead in praying before and after practice.

“[The children] say that this has helped them to make new friends and they are enjoying the cooperation and the team spirit being experienced,” Steven says.

For Steven, this initiative is about more than a love for the game or lessons learned through teamwork. Through outreach soccer games in Malawi, he shared Christ with other communities and he hopes to do the same through this initiative in Haiti. “This will give our children a platform to showcase and share the Christian values and morals that they have been learning in our COTN program,” Steven says. “It will help to develop their self confidence in sharing the love of Christ to their communities and their country at large, hence also developing a generation of missionaries for Christ who transform nations.”

Of course, like the kids, Steven can’t help but dream big. 

“Though I didn't go far in playing soccer as a professional I have learned a lot from playing soccer as it remains my favorite sport,” Steven says. “I hope and believe that the kids will also have a chance to attain all these attributes and becoming soccer stars who will represent their countries and play for overseas teams where they will be able to share their faith and win souls for the Kingdom.”

The team is still in great need of soccer gear. To help support the team, click here!

“I have enjoyed every moment so far,” Steven says. “Every moment has been special. It gives me an opportunity to be part of their lives, families, and communities. I am so grateful to God for providing ways for me that I can give back to the world what has been invested in me by Him and COTN.”