Lakewood varsity soccer team displays the flags of the countries each of their players were born

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Posted at 8:45 AM, Sep 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-11 08:45:48-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Many of the high school kids on the Lakewood High School Varsity soccer team are thousands of miles away from where they were born.

"I was like 12 years old when I came here, so there's not much I remember," said Omar Almutairi who's from Saudi Arabia.

Whether these teenagers came here as immigrants or refugees, they're celebrated.

Ten flags represent the countries these players are from and they're on display every practice and home game.

"It's amazing to play here and probably one of the best things that have happened to me," said Omar.

Almutairi said soccer back home was very different.

"Soccer was like really popular in Saudi Arabia, we had to put two shoes in the street and play soccer," he said. "It was difficult for me to learn more soccer here because the way here and the way there is so different."

Omar says seeing his flag every time he steps on the field allows him to honor his home.

"It means a lot to be honest," he said. "The way that Lakewood appreciates us. It means a lot to every player."

The flags don't just mean something to the kids who are from these countries, but for every person on this Lakewood soccer team, they're special.

"It's not just about welcoming everybody and pretending we're the same. It's about welcoming everybody and celebrating the things that make us different," said team captain Cameron Levis.

Cameron is from Lakewood, and loves learning from his diverse teammates even if they don't speak the same language.

"I think that's a great learning experience cause in the real world, not everyone is going to speak what language that you speak so its good to learn how to communicate without just words," he said.

Head Coach Andrew Toth is helping make all these young men teammates and family.

"It lights their eyes up when they can come and play soccer, especially when you have a kid thats just right away arrived from overseas and they're scared," said Toth.

Toth says when these young men are our next leaders and teachers it will be all worth it.

"They're forgiving, they're full of grace, they love each other they want to make the world a better place and we're really in good hands," he said.