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A personal outlook: Before, during andafter ESPN's documentary "Redemption Song"

With Coach Lincoln Phillips & Eritrean member of 1971-74 Howard soccer team Amdemichael G/Slassie


On June 7th, 2016 ESPN's new venture "The Undefeated" will feature a short documentary about a story that was collecting dust for many years. This is a story of defiance and challenge and one that this blogger had been following for many years. I was one of the luck people to see the premier in April 2016 along with members of the 1974 Howard Team, coaches friends and family at Howard's campus.

What triggered my interest?

It started out in the late 1980's when I was attending undergraduate school in South Carolina at Francis Marion University where I also played soccer. Other than soccer and some social events with team mates I spent quite a lot of time at the library where my interest in reading historical magazines lead me to start taking away the famous "Soccer America" magazines from the library with permission as a second copy was always accidentally delivered to our prestigious campus library. And when there was no second copy, members of our soccer team would know where to find it as my apartment was scattered with these magazines.

With "Redemption Song" Producer Mark Wright.

One day the librarian asked me if I wanted to help throw away some boxes with books and magazine as they were cleaning up the school library to make room for newer books. I glanced through some of these magazines and saw older versions of "Soccer America" as far back as the 60's. I respectfully asked if I could have them and the librarian replied if "you get to them before the trucks come you can take them away". Once I got a hold of these magazines, I spent quite a lot of time looking at the history of college and professional soccer in the USA and the connections it had to the international soccer arena. It was while reading these articles that I came upon the story of "Howard University's 1971-74 soccer team along with the many other college soccer stories that motivated me to practice and play hard while in college. I found out that there were many East Africans, West Africans, Caribbeans, Latin Americans and other immigrants from Europe & Asia that have contributed so much to the game here in the USA. I was even proud to find out that there were a few Eritreans that helped in the growth including a player on the Howard University historic team.

With Members of historic Howard 1971-74 soccer team.

What makes Howard University's 1971-74 team Unique?

First and foremost they are a historically black university that competed in NCAA division 1 soccer and during the civil rights era it was difficult to compete against schools that had far more budget to build their soccer programs. Howard was able to bring together players from different parts of the world and unite them as a collective group for a mission. The NCAA wrongfully stripped them of their 1971 undefeated season after winning the national championship and three years later the Bison came back and did the unthinkable. They did not lose a single game or tie any games in their quest for a championship. They did what no other team has been able to do until now. Their stadium was always packed to capacity at every home game as they entertained their followers. The wins were always convincing until the dramatic, quadruple-overtime national championship game that took place in a cold St Louis Busch stadium.

The coach of that historic team and my current colleague at the NSCAA Black soccer coaches association was once a star goalkeeper for the Trinidad & Tobago team that played against my ultimate hero Pele in the NASL (North American Soccer League) a league that I used to love watching as a kid. This team will forever go down in history as one of the most exciting and mentally strong teams. Their story is the American story of hard work and dedication and should inspire all of humanity. They faced many obstacles and they continued to concentrate on their mission which was to get that championship back. They took it back after it was taken from them. Every young person today should use this story as way to inspire themselves.

My Thesis at George Mason University.

As a former college soccer player at Francis Marion University nicknamed Patriots, I have some great memories of playing soccer and to this day I continue to be engaged with the school through our alumni network of friends and the soccer team. The program has improved so much over the years. When I decided to get my masters at another school nicknamed Patriots (George Mason University) I also learned that the school had produced the first African-American female soccer player to play for the United States women's national team. Little did I know that I will be doing my thesis and at the same time as my submission ESPN would be doing a documentary on this historical achievement. The good thing is I am able to submit it at a later date after adding new information that would help understand how a very unfair and unjust decision in 1971 was able to recreate another NCAA national champions without losing a single game. This historic occasion should be discussed as a topic today and must educate people to be more tolerant and understanding of other cultures. As a former TV broadcast journalist I had intended to do a documentary myself as this story had all the ingredients but the producer for ESPN along with Spike Lee were able to get to the story before I did. I want to give them kudos as they did an outstanding job. The great part about it is the producer Mark Wright was a soccer player who played for Ian Bain a star of the Howard 1974 team. The connection is deep and the story was very intimate.

"Redemption Song," the story of Howard University's 1971 and 1974 national championship winning soccer teams, will air on ESPN on June 10, during the 6 p.m. ET hour of SportsCenter.

Final Thoughts.

If stories like this are buried chances are the new generation will not understand the struggles that people had to go through to get to where we are at today. It is also imperative to understand that the issue of racism will always be around unless minority communities speak up and share their achievements and success stories to the world. It should not be a taboo to talk about a human interest story that is inspirational, rather it should be a proud moment. I was encouraged by my advisors at George Mason to pursue this story because it is a story of defiance, unity in diversity as players from different backgrounds including African-Americans at a historically black institution were able to come together to help destroy a disease that we all know as RACISM!

For Eri-International Sports,

Mike Seium

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A personal outlook: Before, during andafter ESPN's documentary "Redemption Song" Reviewed by Admin on 12:00 AM Rating: 5

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