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Different Cultures United By Football

On Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure to accompany two 10th grade Bhutanese refugee students to their very first NFL game. Despite being a huge Arizona Cardinal’s fan myself, I had never been to an NFL game either.

Tek* and Tara* are two teenagers born in a Nepali refugee camp. They told me they were among poor refugees who lived in bamboo and thatch huts. They grew up and spent their entire lives in refugee camps before immigrating to the United States two years ago. Tek and Tara moved to Phoenix knowing little English; what they had learned was U.K. style English. They quickly pointed out the pronunciation is quite different.

When we arrived in Glendale, I gave them the option of either taking the shuttle or walking from our parking lot to the stadium. Tek and Tara are both active and avid soccer players who missed practice to watch the game, so they adamantly suggested that the exercise would be good for all of us.

On the walk, they informed me that the national animal of Nepal is the cow. Killing or eating a cow is punishable by jail-time. However, while Nepali diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, the Nepali people may occasionally venture into the jungle and hunt small animals like rabbit. While I’m not sure I’d like to feast on a meal made up of Thumper (a popular Disney character), this wasn’t abnormal to me because many Americans eat rabbit.

When we finally arrived at the Cardinal’s Stadium, we were awestruck by the enormity of the dome. My fiancé, Kyle, explained to Tek and Tara all about how the roof opens and the grass rolls out. They seemed impressed and surprised about the ability to physically transport a patch of real grass.

I informed both Tek and Tara that we would be rooting for the team in red. I jokingly suggested that since they live in Arizona, they should probably do the same. They were engaged, smiling, and rooting for the Cardinals throughout the game. They stood up and cheered whenever Arizona made a touchdown and I was sure to teach them the all-important high-five. They asked many questions like, “do the players get paid when they win?” They were pretty astounded to find out how much money Larry Fitzgerald would receive over the next eight years. I explained that for professional athletes in America, playing a sport is actually a career and often results in high pay and a celebrity-like status. They decided that maybe they should play professional football.

Sadly, the game ended when the back-up quarterback for the San Diego Chargers hit an open wide receiver for a touchdown, ultimately resulting in a 34-31 loss for Arizona. I was disappointed when Tek and Tara told me this meant San Diego is better than Arizona. I explained this was a preseason game, and Tek and Tara said we would find out for certain when Arizona and San Diego meet in the regular season.

Thank you to the Arizona Cardinals for making this opportunity a reality for my newfound friends. It was such a fun day experiencing our first NFL game together. If only you could have seen these teens’ faces!

*Names have been changed to protect political refugees.

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