Since the time of the world’s first Olympiad, held in ancient Greece, games have always brought people together.
That’s the lofty goal that motivated a few international students on campus to set up South Dakota State University’s “international soccer team,” a student athletic body created by and for foreign students to promote cross-cultural exchange.
Mouhcine Chergou, one of the team founders said, “The idea of an international soccer tournament existed in Milan, Italy, 100 years ago. I think the team is in existence, even today.”
At South Dakota State University, it began in 2003.
Swayambhu Chatterjee, a computer science graduate student and an avid football player explained, “In the summer of 2003, a few of us from India and Bangladesh used to play soccer outside Binnewies Hall.”
“Gradually, as the number of players started growing, we needed to move to a bigger field. We then organized a match where the international students played against the university soccer’s team. We decided to have a tournament next.”
But since the cold weather didn’t permit the players to practice outdoors for the upcoming sports event, a tournament committee—comprising of students from Morocco, Israel Columbia, and Bangladesh—decided that the team move its venue to a warmer, more comfortable place—the intramural building, popularly known as the “barn”—which is its current home.
The team started out with four seven-member teams. Within a period of two semesters, it’s grown by leaps and bounds.
Today, it consists of six teams known as Brookings Internationale, Pele, Europower, BM-Stars, Junk Sweat, and the Red-Stars. Each has a multicultural mix, with members from countries like Brazil, Japan, Russia, Bangladesh, Germany, Ethiopia, and the U.S.
The immense popularity of the games and the enthusiasm of the players led to the creation of a Web site, which has become a bulletin board for upcoming matches, score listings, and other information.
Sport, it’s believed, unites people by bridging differences of race, nationality, class, religion. The profiles of the players only reinforce this belief.
Marcel Thielke is a 17-year-old high school exchange student from Berlin, Germany. Dr. Artur Rosa from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is an assistant professor in the department of animal and range science. “I’ve been here for two months now and this is my third game. I still love to play,” he said.
Andrew Tichler is from Rapid City and is pursuing his undergraduate studies in French. He said, “One of the fun things about this team is that besides getting to play with so many international people, every now and then, I even get a chance to practice my French.”