The Fugees Soccer Team

In 2004 in the Atlanta suburb of Clarkston, Georgia, a group of refugee youth from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia, and Sudan came together with their coach, Luma Mufleh, to form a recreational soccer league called The Fugees—short for “Refugees.”

Fugees soccer team at practice, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Fugees soccer team at practice, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Courtesy of Nicole Bengiveno, The New York Times

Many longtime community members reacted with hostility to the newcomers. They refused access to sports fields, declaring the spaces were to be used only for baseball and football, not soccer.

Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Courtesy of Nicole Bengiveno, The New York Times

Kickin’ It

The Fugees were among the many new immigrants who contributed to soccer’s rise in popularity. By the late 1900s communities across the nation embraced the sport as an alternative to American football and baseball.

Fugees soccer jersey, around 2013

Gift of Luma Mufleh

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Fugees soccer cleats, around 2013

Gift of Luma Mufleh

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Fugees soccer ball, around 2013

Gift of Luma Mufleh

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Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, around 2007

Courtesy of Nicole Bengiveno, The New York Times

Game Changers

In 2004 Coach Luma Mufleh, a naturalized citizen from Jordan, started a soccer team and academy for refugee children in Clarkston, Georgia. At first challenged by community leaders, Mufleh negotiated the students’ rights to play soccer on the town’s fields.

Coach Luma Mufleh with the Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, 2014

Coach Luma Mufleh with the Fugees soccer team, Clarkston, Georgia, 2014

Courtesy of Luma Mufleh