All Nations Sports Academy (ANSA)

It’s a warm Houston afternoon—enough to make your knees buckle and your survival instinct begin moving you toward air conditioning. Arguably it’s not so different from, say, Brazil… but the climate isn’t what’s making Marcelo Galvao feel most at home. It’s where he’s standing.

The soccer pitch.

Kids race back and forth, practicing passing drills as the sun begins declining toward the “golden hour.” Photographers love this time because of the rich lighting it offers. Galvao uses it to illuminate something else.

“In this area we have roughly sixty thousand refugees,” Galvao says, referring to the Alief community where he’s holding practice. “There are probably 40 to 50 languages spoken right here. A lot of the kids don’t have any area to play, so they play right in the streets. But they all know the game of soccer. They all played in their countries—their parents did, their families did—and that’s when the idea came of putting a soccer league together.”

That idea gave birth to All Nations Sports Academy—ANSA, for short—which has blossomed over the course of a year into a full league hosting practices, games, and tournaments for over 500 low income, Houston-area children. It’s a free league, too—but Galvao views the lack of sticker price as a gift, and one to be lived up to.

“Soccer is fast, fun, and athletic, Galvao says, “and teaches children discipline, commitment, teamwork, and respect—life skills. When children and adults come on to the field, we shed our backgrounds and our differences, and we work together to solve problems, grow, and mature. Particularly for children who are new to America—they need to be able to connect to others in positive ways.”

The positivity is spreading. ANSA is slated to add three more sites this year, boosting their total locations to five. In addition, they’ve partnered with the Houston Dash professional soccer team for promotion, free game attendances, and coaching/mentoring from Dash players.

Last year, millions of Americans watched the World Cup match between Portugal and Team U.S.A. That’s more than the average ratings for a game during the N.B.A. Finals, the World Series, or even Monday Night Football. Those are even better than Walking Dead numbers. It’s time to be honest: Americans are finally getting soccer. But we’re only just getting wise to what the world at large already knows.

Soccer—the beautiful game—is uniting nations and creating a safe place to start for immigrant children all over Houston. ANSA intends to keep growing and spreading its mission of high-quality, character-building soccer- but they need help. Their site lists opportunities for volunteers of all types, from coaches all the way to homework and English helpers.

Will you be the one who helps the next generation of players? ANSA is our Spotlight Organization for May, and we encourage you to join them and get in the game.

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