Vahe Gregorian

Vote early and often for Sporting KC Community MVP

Mariya Dostzadah hugged refugee soccer player Innocent Ngane, 13, from the Congo, after a tournament game on Nov. 11, 2016, at the Overland Park Soccer Complex. Dostzadah, originally from Afghanistan herself, created two refugee and immigrant soccer teams she has organized through the Overland Park Soccer Club and a non-profit, Branch Global.
Mariya Dostzadah hugged refugee soccer player Innocent Ngane, 13, from the Congo, after a tournament game on Nov. 11, 2016, at the Overland Park Soccer Complex. Dostzadah, originally from Afghanistan herself, created two refugee and immigrant soccer teams she has organized through the Overland Park Soccer Club and a non-profit, Branch Global. deulitt@kcstar.com

Last fall, photojournalist David Eulitt and I were deeply gratified to get to work on a story about a remarkable program helping hundreds of refugee children in Kansas City find consolation and inspiration through soccer.

Many had known horrors in Congo and Iraq and Somalia and the Sudan and Syria and elsewhere and were helped meaningfully in their assimilation by the Global Football Community founded by force-of-nature Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake.

Their faces and stories stayed with us, always will, and seemed to strike a chord with some readers who wanted to know how to help.

Now there’s another way:

Goodbrake, who was born in Afghanistan and came to Kansas City with a suitcase and a few hundred dollars about five years ago, has been chosen by Sporting KC as its Community MVP and is eligible for the MLS grand prize of $25,000.

“This is not only a win for Global FC, but a win for (the) Kansas City soccer community!!” Goodbrake said in a news release. “What an honor to show the rest of the country that Kansas City is a community that uses soccer as a vehicle for social change.

“This is a win for all the volunteers and partners who make our vision a reality. Most importantly, this is for all the refugee/at-risk youth and families we serve …”

Branch Global and the Overland Park Soccer Club have partnered to provide refugee children in northeast Kansas City an opportunity to play soccer, a common denominator for the immigrants from 16 countries who are trying to make a life here.

As noted in the release, “With an increase of programming and number of youth, this prize amount and national recognition would be a huge blessing to our program objectives.”

The grand prize winner will be announced during the MLS All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Chicago. Voting began July 13 and is open through 1 p.m. Central on Aug. 2.

In the tradition of filling the ballot box for Mike Moustakas, you can vote early and often for a great cause here.

Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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