My name is Yahya Alasad. I am a 39-year-old Syrian man from East Ghouta near Damascus. In Syria, I played 16 years of professional soccer for the Al-Wahda Sports Club in Damascus, which plays in the 3rd Syrian Premier League.
My dream was to become a professional soccer coach after being a player for so long. Unfortunately, the revolution in Syria erupted and I was abducted at a government checkpoint on April 16, 2013. I was imprisoned for the sole reason that I was from East Ghouta, where there were revolutionaries - or freedom fighters as they call themselves - who were giving the Syrian government major problems. I spent a year in a prison called the Mazzeh. After I was released, I spent a few weeks in Syria recovering and getting ready to travel with my family of six. I said farewell to my parents, and on April 29, 2014, my family and I travelled to Jordan under dangerous conditions. Luckily we made it through without major problems.
As we entered Jordan, I went to the Zaatari Refugee Camp where I had to undergo extensive medical treatment on my legs. The nerves in my legs were severely damaged from the treatment I received in prison. After spending two years and four months in Jordan, my family and I were cleared to immigrate to the United States. We arrived in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego. It was a challenge living in a new country but with the help of our new American friends we started to settle down. In addition, we had the challenge of trying to find a job without knowing English.
My new friends helped me form a soccer team with Syrian refugee youth in the hopes that this could lead to a work opportunity. The team started small with eight players but we eventually grew to 20. My work with refugee youth led me to YALLA. YALLA is a sports and education non-profit located in El Cajon that work predominantly with refugee youth from the Middle East and North Africa. YALLA offered me the opportunity to coach on a regular basis and I am now coaching 100 kids. The kids are both boys and girls and we participate in several tournaments such as those held at an indoor field at Balboa Park.
This opportunity has changed my life as well as my family’s. We now feel like we belong to the community in San Diego. The coaches, players and management at YALLA are my second family and I feel quite at home. The parents of my players have also become my friends and we work together to discipline any player who is not acting right at home or on the field. This has increased my self-confidence tremendously and I hope to be an asset to the community. I encourage others with any sports experience to join YALLA and impact the lives and futures of the younger generation in positive and constructive ways. YALLA also provides assistance to the players to be able to have a college education. I am thrilled about this for my own children, and know that many other parents are as well. We can now look ahead and see a brighter future for ourselves and our families. I hope to stay with YALLA for a long time and I want to say to them: Thank you for allowing me to be part of your family!
Coach Yahya is currenting serving as an Up2Us Coach at YALLA in San Diego, CA coaching soccer. His position is generously funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).