This Weekend: Eat Like It's Still Summer and Help This Refugee Soccer Team Get a Ride

Here's an idea: If, like me, you are bored to tears with the corporatization of sport and want to celebrate in some way those who play for pure love of the game -- and maybe grab a burger, some hot dogs, and a cheap car wash in the bargain -- then I've got a deal for you. Point your car to the heart of Aurora this Saturday afternoon and make the acquaintance of Niyakko Rush, a grass-roots soccer club of talented and dedicated young refugees who just really, really, really want to play.

See also: City Lax Brings Lacrosse to Inner-City Denver

For a modest donation -- whatever you, Mr. or Ms. Consumer, feels is fair -- you can get your car washed and be well fed. And meet some soccer fiends who are so tight, so wildly enmeshed in this idea of teamwork, that they named their club after a Burmese term that means "brother."

Niayakko began a year ago, when Jason Hicks, a volunteer doing outreach for his church, spotted a bunch of kids kicking a sad excuse for a ball around a glass-strewn dirt lot behind their apartment house. The kids came from Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, and other far-flung trouble spots. Some had spent years in refugee camps, waiting for admission to America.

They had on flip-flops and ragged shorts. They were from different tribes and cultures, and some struggled with English. But they all were immersed in what Hicks considers a universal language: soccer.

Their parents worked long hours at the kind of jobs an ex-farmer can get in a non-agrarian society -- meatpacking plants, parking cars at the airport -- and had little time for recreation. Hicks, a former college soccer player and tremendous optimist, figured he could help.

Over the past year Hicks has cadged equipment for the group, roped in assistant coaches to help him in twice-weekly practice sessions, lined up playing fields and games with the aid of Colorado Rush, even dragooned a photographer. On Saturday the team will finally get official uniforms.

Niyakko Rush's amazing metamorphosis, while remaining an all-volunteer, close-to-the-bone effort, has been full of twists best saved for an upcoming Westword feature. But right now the group is holding the car-wash-and-hot-dog fundraiser in an all-out blitz on one of its greatest obstacles to a more consistent schedule of pick-up games or even (gasp) league play: the lack of reliable transportation. Hicks hopes to raise a few thousand dollars for an old but roadworthy bus or a couple of high-mileage vans, so he can get his burgeoning crew to the field on time.

Inviting the public to swing by and meet the team isn't just about extracting a few bucks, though. "People are going to have the opportunity to join the program," Hicks explains. "We're looking for funding, but we're also looking to build a network of people who are interested in what we're doing."

The fun and games runs from four to eight p.m. on Saturday, September 13, at Wellspring Community Church, 1072 Chambers Court in Aurora. You can also put your name in for a raffle with a cash prize; all the rest of the proceeds from the donations go toward the purchase of a team vehicle. For more information, check out the Niyakko Rush Facebook page and the team's first YouTube video, below.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast