KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A local semi-pro soccer team is having a big impact on the game.
Ann Murphy is a Kansas City police officer and coach of the Rise Jaguars, a team of mostly refugees in KC's Historic Northeast neighborhood. Boys on the team are excited about the 2018 World Cup, which kicks off Thursday.
“It’s all over the world so everyone is excited for it," said former Jaguar Adrian Dar, 19. He emigrated from Burma by way of Thailand.
“They are already claiming their teams how far each team is going to go in each round," Murphy said.
But her team is also excited about a women’s semi-pro game that will be played in their neighborhood Saturday. Murphy also plays for the Kansas City Courage of the Women’s Premiere Soccer League. She presented the idea to her coach in the off-season.
"Just playing over there made sense to be closer to the kids because accessibility is something that is difficult for a lot of these youth, where they don’t have the means to get to games," Coach Wendy Louque said.
The team opened their season at Northeast High earlier this month. Murphy’s youth teams and many of their friends were there to root her on.
“It inspires them that we are coming into their community and showing them that this community has worth," she said.
“I will go to every game that’s there, and I will support them," Dar said.
Maybe some of the kids will play in the World Cup in 2026, awarded to the United bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States on Wednesday. Maybe they won't. But Murphy is more excited about the scholarships that 15 first-generation college students on her oldest team earned this year.
Soccer fans who make their first trip to that area of town to see the team might just walk away with the same new outlook as the team’s coach.
“It’s made me a better person, just accepting people from other cultures, other economic backgrounds," Louque said.
The Courage take on the Des Moines Menace at 4 p.m. Saturday at Northeast High. There's no cost for admission.