Chuong Tang has a determination that has helped him start a new life in the United States, thanks to support from friends at Peter and Paul Community Services and the St. Louis Roadies street soccer club.
The 19-year-old and his mother and siblings came to St. Louis as refugees in 2016. The family originally was from southern Sudan, but during the war in the African nation, Chuong’s father arranged for the family to escape to Kenya, where Chuong was born on New Year’s Day of 1999. After his father died during the conflict in Sudan, the family applied for refugee status to come to the United States.
“The language and culture were very different for my family, but I began to adapt,” said Chuong, whose native language is Swahili.
After moving to St. Louis, Chuong’s brother came home one day with an application for the St. Louis Roadies. Sponsored by Peter and Paul Community Services, the street soccer club is open to men who are homeless, formerly homeless or newly arrived as refugees.
His extraordinary midfielder skills with the Roadies have scored him a spot representing the U.S. National Team at the Homeless World Cup Nov. 13-18 in Mexico City.
“This is like a dream come true, to go to the World Cup,” Chuong said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
Earlier this year, Chuong’s mother and siblings moved to Texas to be closer to a larger community of Kenyan and Sudanese refugees. But Chuong wanted to remain in St. Louis to finish his high school education. With his mother’s approval, he stayed while the family moved across the country, and in May, he graduated from Sumner High School’s Fresh Start program with his GED.
Volunteer coaches from the St. Louis Roadies took him under their wing, offering support as he completed his GED, found a job and a place to live in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of north St. Louis, near St. Augustine Church, where his mother attended. Coaches also helped him apply at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, where he started classes this fall toward a possible degree in chemical engineering.
Last month, coach Eric
Deisner helped Chuong apply for a job at Mother of Good Counsel Home in Northwoods as a floor technician. Deisner, who works there as director of resident services, got permission to arrange Chuong’s schedule, allowing him to attend classes in the morning and soccer practice on Friday evenings.
It was a definite improvement from his previous job, which included overnight hours. “I said, ‘Let us offer you an opportunity to work with us, and we’ll work around your school schedule — and your soccer schedule,’”
“Off the field, Chuong is an absolute gentleman and a leader,” Deisner said. “Several of the other young men who play for the St. Louis Roadies look to him as their role model. They have followed in Chuong’s footsteps and have decided to stay in school to complete their high school education.”
Chuong said the Roadies and Peter and Paul Community Services have been a “big support to me. They do a lot to help those in need … and bringing them together through soccer.”
Homeless World Cup
The 16th Homeless World Cup tournament will take place Nov. 13-18 at the Zocalo in Mexico City. More than 500 players representing 47 countries will attend the weeklong festival of soccer.
Organized by the Homeless World Cup Foundation, the tournament inspires people who are homeless to change their lives through the power of soccer. Organizers also seek to change public perceptions of homelessness and the issues that surround it.
Games will be live streamed on YouTube at HomelessWorldCup. For information on the foundation, visit homelessworldcup.org.
How to help
The St. Louis Roadies street soccer club was formed 11 years ago by people who are homeless, formerly homeless or newly arrived as refugees. The club is sponsored by Peter and Paul Community Services and is a vehicle to help players remain sober, find housing and jobs, pay off debt, access health care, reconnect with family and create meaningful relationships with other players.
Practices are generally held on Friday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Peter and Paul Community Services’ main offices at Garfield Commons, 2612 Wyoming St. in the Benton Park West neighborhood of south St. Louis. Open practices for the public to join take place the last Friday of the month. To check the schedule, email Joe Campanella at [email protected].
The Roadies have joined with Soccer Master to sell supporter scarves to benefit the team. All Soccer Master locations have scarves available for a suggested donation of $25. All proceeds will be used to sponsor a player to compete locally, nationally or even internationally. Donations are tax deductible. For more information on the St. Louis Roadies, visit www.stlroadies.org. For Soccer Master locations, visit www.soccermaster.com.