3 US Team Members Run Soccer Camp for Refugees

Three US soccer stars are doing their part to give back to the community.

Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, and Stuart Holden kicked the ball around and helped kids score goals at a soccer camp for refugees Thursday at the San Diego Polo Fields.

For the clinic the trio partnered with YALLA San Diego, a group that helps refugees and immigrants in East County.

“We wanted to do something that helped us stay connected to each other, stay connected to the communities that we go to, and stay connected to the game that’s been so good to us,” Landon Donovan, a six-time MLS Cup champion told NBC7.

The former US National Team members started HELM soccer camps three months ago as a way to do that. HELM stands for humility, education, leadership, and motivation.

They knew they could put together a generic soccer camp – but the players wanted something more genuine.

“We want to be immersed in it, involved in it, and have an impact – a real impact on lives more so than just saying hi and signing an autograph or taking a picture,” Donovan said. “YALLA San Diego was a natural fit. What they do aligns perfectly with what we do and it was a perfect marriage.”

Stuart Holden, a former English Premier League player, said YALLA’s focus on education through soccer felt right for what they were hoping to do in their camps.

“To be able to have that type of impact is humbling and to be able to donate our time,” Holden said, “it’s a really special once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

YALLA San Diego is as much focused on college preparation as it is on dribbling the ball.

“In addition to our soccer program we have academic programs and college prep programs,” said Ryan Shera, soccer director for YALLA soccer club.

Shera says this year YALLA had 21 of 22 seniors get accepted to four-year universities. The 22nd student could not be accepted to college because he is a Syrian refugee and his sealed transcripts are stuck in Syria.

“These are some of the issues we deal with and the issues that our players face,” Shera said.

YALLA’s motto is "soccer is the hook, college is the goal."

About 60 players participated in the one-day clinic.

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