As World Cup plays out, soccer brings Louisville refugees together

As World Cup plays out, soccer brings Louisville refugees together
Teams playing in the first ever #LouisvilleUnited tournament on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – In some corners of town, one can feel the excitement surrounding the World Cup this weekend.

Soccer fans were gathering to watch as teams come together to compete.

Molly Malones in the Highlands was filled with seats turned towards TV screens as the drama on the international stage unfolded.

"Yesterday, even for a game between Iran and Morocco, we had 30 to 35 people with shirts on," owner Tadgh O'Callaghan said.

Without the US or Ireland in the tournament, O'Callaghan said he was amazed at the turnout, even for game coverage that started at 6:00 a.m.

"We had some customers here drinking coffee," O'Callaghan said.

O'Callaghan added he'll be rooting for England this time around.

"My ancestors will disown me," he said.

The bar owner attributes the crowd that's filled his pub to the diversity of the city and the increasing interest of soccer in Louisville.

"The seeds of Louisville City were formed here at Molly Malones," O'Callaghan said.

Across town, in South Louisville, that diversity and love for the game was in action.

At the first ever #LouisvilleUnited tournament, eight teams of refugees from different countries were warming up.

Players represented Mexico, Iraq, Syria, Senegal, Somalia and other countries with one thing in common.

"A relationship with soccer," Farhan Abdi, the Executive Director of Somali Community of Louisville Inc who helped organize the event, said. "We all love soccer."

A celebration in Louisville of soccer and togetherness organizers from the group Refuge International Inc. and the Somali Community of Louisville said coincidentally aligned with the World Cup.

"We might be from many different nations, but Louisville is a city that cares about everyone, wants to build community," John Barnett, the Director of Refuge International and co-organizer, said. "We want to bring people together. Everything changes when its your friend."

Both organizers said they hope the event people are cheering for Saturday will help refugee soccer leagues develop fields in South Louisville with the goal of bringing people together.

"Lots of young guys will motivate each other and keep together, not hit the streets, but they will hit the fields," Abdi said.

Abdi added that the refugee soccer league he organizes in South Louisville has around 300 players in it.

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