BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham Hammers are Alabama’s team.
The fledgling teams’ games regularly draw more than a thousand fans, and the players on the team come from more places than the Yellowhammer State. Goalkeeper Pritchard Ndaria hails from Zimbabwe and Soham Kathuria is from India, just to name a couple. Hammers players come from Iceland, England, Brazil, Ghana, Liberia, Gambia, Spain, Costa Rica and Bermuda as well.
As easily as “The Beautiful Game” can appear to these players, life off the field is not always so simple.
“The first days are pretty lonely because you don’t know anybody, you don’t know what to do,” said Ndaria.
Kathuria is a student-athlete at Montevallo and said the game was a saving grace. “If I had come just as a normal freshman without soccer, it would have been little harder for me to transition into this life,” he said.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world, played by millions across the globe. Despite its large popularity, it has a distinct ability to make a daunting situation seem smaller. For Kathuria and Ndaria, the game helped them find their way in their new country.
“I didn’t know anybody, so my soccer teammates were my family, my brothers,” said Ndaria.
Hammers coach Joel Person has coached across the country and sees the same scenarios playing out over and over.
“It helps them [foreign players] acclimate to the culture and to get to know the area,” said Person. “It really gives them automatic friends off the field right away by being part of a team.”
Ndaria and Kathuria both hold fond memories and feelings about their respective homelands.
“It’s a beautiful place and the people are wonderful,” said Ndaria of Zimbabwe.
However, both have also learned to love their new home.
“I think you get things a little bit easier here than in India,” said Kathuria. “I feel privileged to be here. It feels nice. It feels good.”
Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News