By Port City FC
Port City FC midfielder Retsin Kabambala has always loved the game of soccer. Growing up in a refugee camp in the Congo, his family spent years trying to immigrate to the United States. While in the refugee camp, Kabambala and his friends played street soccer from sunup to sundown, bare feet, without proper soccer equipment, including an often improvised soccer ball. Kabambala and his friends were driven by a passion and hunger to play soccer at the highest levels, despite the political and humanitarian unease around them in their home country.
Kabambala and his family were finally granted immigration status in 2015 and they came to the United States. Once settled in Mobile, Alabama, he became active in Soccer4life, a Christian organization, run by Zenzo Ndlovu. Coach Z, as he is known, came to Mobile on a soccer scholarship at the University of Mobile. While studying at the University of Mobile, he went through a life-changing experience and he knew he was being called to use soccer as a vehicle to minister to kids starting in Mobile, Alabama. Coach Z observed immediately the obstacles and needs that underprivileged and at-risk inner city youth must overcome in order to reach their full potential. Soccer4life began working with hundreds of kids throughout intercity, Mobile, changing their lives and the lives of those they touched.
Kabambala and a few other current Port City players committed to Soccer4life as youngsters, and Coach Z became father figures to many of them. Kabambala became the backbone of the Soccer4life team, playing for their soccer team from the age of 14 until today. In 2018, Kabambala and three other members of Soccer4life were invited to a club tryout in Germany. Unfortunately, due to their age and immigration status, none were able to make the trip at that time.
Kabambala has now graduated from high school and is awaiting the next step in his career. He has been immensely thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the U-19 pilot.
“I love the game of soccer, and my hope is to continue to play at the highest levels possible,” said Kabambala. “It is my hope that this NPSL experience will give our Port City players more exposure to college or professional soccer opportunities.”
Port City coach Donovan Esterhuizen has nothing but good things to say about Kabambala.
“One of the primary objectives of Port City is to encourage soccer growth, and opportunity, in the non-traditional soccer communities,” Esterhuizen said. “Retsin and several of his teammates represent the best of those objectives. These young men, like Retsin, who have fought their way to this country, are looking for an opportunity to play the game they love in their adopted country. This NPSL pilot has not only given them a place to play at a higher level, but an opportunity to be seen by coaches they otherwise may not have ever been exposed to.”
Retsin has played center defensive midfielder for Port City throughout the season and has led them to the top of the table.
“I hope this pilot gets expanded to give opportunity to many more players, like myself,” Kabambala added. “This has been a great experience for myself and my teammates.”
While playing for Port City and Soccer4life, Kabambala is exploring his future options with soccer. It is his goal to play professional soccer, and if the opportunity presents itself, he would jump at the opportunity to play soccer full-time. If not, he is considering his college opportunities and hopes to get the opportunity to play in the NPSL again.
“Retsin personifies why Port City jumped at the opportunity to get involved in this pilot,” Esterhuizen concluded. “It is our hope we can continue to provide these kinds of opportunities to players along the Mississippi Gulf Coast well into the future, whether they originally come from Gulfport or even faraway places such as the Congo. We are very pleased with the success of the first U19 season.”
Port City FC feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to showcase Kabambala and his teammates this fall. They hope to be reading about him in the years to come, as he continues to demonstrate that with the proper mindset, hard work and a love for the game, one can overcome even the greatest odds to shine.
Photo Credit: Port City FC