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Unity On and Off the Soccer Fields

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Soccer teams from across the state and around the country are competing in West Des Moines this weekend.

The Genesis Midwestern Conference Cup Soccer Tournament draws players from the immigrant and refugee community.

“That’s my sport. It’s the only sport I can play,” Mohamed Bass said, who grew up in Liberia.

Teams traveled from Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota and Arizona to play at Hidden Valley Soccer Complex. The tournament is sponsored by the organization Genesis Incorporated.

“Soccer speaks one language. Everybody understands the sport of soccer. We use soccer to try to engage them,” Sam Gabriel said.

Gabriel and his wife, Trisha, started Genesis Inc. in 2009. The couple works with kids and young adults from the immigrant and refugee community in Des Moines. The non-profit provides after school and recreational activities and the goal is to give the ones who are struggling an alternative to a life of violence.

“We’re empowering them that they can be leaders in their community and not picking the wrong route by having violent activities,” Trisha Gabriel said.

Most of the teams are from the African community, but for the first time, a Hispanic team from Marshalltown came to play.

“It’s more than just a soccer game,” Gabriel said.

“It`s like a family and also we have fun,” Bass said.

This year's tournament coincided with World Refugee Day. The observance honors the courage and strength of the men, women and children who are forced to flee their homeland.