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Soccer team of refugees, The Fugees Family founder share remarkable stories of triumph Sept. 24-25

New York Times article on players, coach prompts a book and Universal Pictures movie
The Fugees Family is not your stereotypical family unit. In fact, many of them aren't related, although some in the group are siblings. However, this nonprofit organization works with child survivors and refugees of war through soccer, stability and structure. Its members derive from dozens of war-torn countries and they each share some unimaginable, horrific stories about life in their native lands. Some of these stories will be shared when the group visits Pfeiffer University on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25.

On Friday at 10 a.m. in the Henry Pfeiffer Chapel on the Misenheimer campus, the group's founder, Luma Mufleh, will share her own story of escape and fulfillment. A Muslim from Amman, Jordan, Mufleh moved to the south shortly after graduating from Smith College in search of something more in life. While driving through the town of Clarkston, Ga., she noticed a group of boys playing soccer in the street. They played without some of the most basic equipment -- but they played for the sheer enjoyment of the game -- something that reminded her of home. In the summer of 2004, she made fliers announcing tryouts for a soccer team, which she coaches. Universal Pictures has netted rights to make a feature about the Fugees. The studio has paid $2 million against $3 million for the rights to an article by Warren St. John that ran in the  New York Times. St. John plans to turn his article into a book, which will be part of the rights package. Also included are life rights to Mufleh's life story.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Fugees Family will compete in an exhibition match against Pfeiffer's JV soccer team. These events are free and open to the public. This event is hosted as part of the university's Homecoming 2010, held Sept. 24-26. For details, contact Sylvia Hoffmire, director of cultural programs, at (704) 463-3359 or

Most of the 86 members of The Fugees have witnessed death and war from front row seats in their villages – seeing neighbors, friends and their own family members murdered. Others fought as child soldiers in Liberia, were imprisoned, or walked for years through the Sudan as the “lost boys” looking for freedom and solace.  They find peace on the soccer field.

In addition to organized soccer, the Fugees Family provides a space for the kids to heal and meet others like themselves, from different countries, who have been through similar experiences. The players frequently begin by regarding one another with distrust or even hostility. By conducting drills with various players grouped together and enforcing an English-only policy at all times, the kids learn to cooperate. Africans and Asians, Northern and Southern Sudanese, Muslims and Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims play on the same team, finding their commonalities instead of focusing on their differences. Their bonds make them more secure in their own identity and more capable of acclimating to the mainstream.

 â€œThe past five years have been a wonderful yet terrifying journey led by the children I coach, who guide me and keep me accountable every day for the decisions I make,” Mufleh said. “It is because of them that I have founded the Fugees Family.”

The organization works to offer kids equal access to the educational opportunities others in their age group have, helping them to acquire the social and academic skills necessary to succeed – like Shamsoun Dikori, a psychology and human services major at Pfeiffer. Dikori, who came to Pfeiffer as a freshman, also had nightmarish tales before arriving in the U.S. and joining the Fugees. The senior now plans to build schools in his native home of Sudan, which desperately needs them. Dikori's story is a dream come true.

Established in 1885, Pfeiffer University is a comprehensive United Methodist-related university, with multiple campuses, including Misenheimer, Charlotte and the Triangle, committed to educational excellence, service and scholarship.

Media contact: Natasha A. Suber, (704) 463-3040 or  

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