Finding a new home

Keene State College athletes strive for success beyond their backgrounds

Adriana Sanchez

Social media Director

The Keene State College men’s soccer roster holds a variety of students each with their own unique background.

Some of these players have grown up in Africa and had to adapt to a new culture when coming here to the United States.

KSC sophomore, Emmanuel Smith grew up in Guinea, West Africa playing soccer his whole life. He started when he was five-years-old. Smith said it wasn’t easy for him while being in Guinea. He said, “I was five years old when my mom and dad left to come here [United States]. I grew up with my uncle and he took me in as his foster kid. I didn’t get to see my mom before she left.”

Smith said when he first arrived to the United States he was challenged by the language barrier. He attended Concord High School in Concord, N.H..

In high school the teachers spoke way to fast for him so he ended up dropping out for three months of his first-year. But luckily, the principle of that time, Gene Connolly, went to Smith’s house and convinced him to come back. “Ever since I went back I decided to work harder and get where I am today,” Smith said. Connolly died earlier this year.

The international Institute of New England has opened many opportunities to refugees from all over the world. According to their website, they state, “The refugees we serve arrive to American shores with little to their names. Many have seen and experienced unthinkable horror.”

KSC senior and men’s soccer player, Jacob Chiza is a prime example. When he was 7 years old he immigrated from Tanzania, Africa. Chiza explained how the process of coming to America was anything but easy. “The process was hard. First you have to enter the lottery. Someway, somehow we got lucky and then coming here, we stopped at certain places and they give you shots, you have to get rid of all of your clothes that you have – they give you new ones.”

He said he was surprised he couldn’t bring his clothes that he owned. “It’s basically like a clean start,” Chiza said.

He grew up with 12 siblings, but only came to America with his mother, one sister and five brothers. The rest stayed in Africa. Although he goes to KSC and lives in Manchester, his mom lives in Iowa. He said, “It’s hard not seeing her because not seeing somebody you love and care about everyday, anymore, is difficult.” He visits his mom twice a year, during winter break and summer break.

“When I first got here, I wasn’t used to wearing shoes. So, when I would walk outside and walk without shoes people would look at me weird so I would look at them weird too wondering why they were wearing shoes,” Chiza said.

As time went on, people would explain to him how the seasons worked and Chiza eventually realized how things were here in America. Chiza explained how in Africa, kids would play in the middle of the streets with no shoes, . He added how he had to adjust to the difference in currency. “Over there if you don’t have money you still can have fun, but here everything is about money,” Chiza said.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Chiza said he experienced something that few kids have to go through. “One time, there was a shooting, I was taking a nap and the soldiers came and started shooting in the air, taking kids and people to recruit them into the army. So all my siblings ran out of the house and since I was sleeping, I was still [inside the house]. But my mom came back for me through the gunshots and picked me up and put me on her back. When I woke up I was confused…I was scared and worried I wouldn’t live to see another day,” Chiza said.

He said after this, the whole community came together to talk about what to do when attacks happen agai.

The living conditions Chiza had in Tanzania are different to what he has now. Chiza shared a whole room with his whole family because they didn’t have enough rooms and space. “We had different types of sheets we would put on the ground since the bed didn’t have enough space for everybody,” he said.

When Chiza got to America, learning English was hard considering he taught the inappropriate words at first. “It would get me in trouble and I had no idea what I was saying was bad. But then my teachers would tell me I couldn’t use that language,” Chiza said.

Chiza said his moving didn’t only stop when he got to the U.S., Once he was in Manchester, he continued to move to Chicago. He moved freshman year to Chicago, then moved back to Manchester in 2012. Right after this his mother moved to Iowa, he followed her since his mother needed help settling in over there, Chiza explained. Chiza stayed in touch with his high school soccer coach, Chris LaBerge. “I wanted to come back and play soccer so I reached out to him [LeBerge] and when I came back, he took me in and he became my legal guardian.” Chiza said other than his mom, LeBerge is his biggest supporter. Chiza said whenever he has events going on, he can always count on LeBerge being there.

KSC senior and Team Captain, Samuel Binogono, came to the United States in 2008 from Congo, Central Africa. “The transition was little bit difficult but after awhile you get used to things. We had help from people to help us get comfortable here and that helped us feel welcomed,” Binogono said. He came here for better opportunities and to better himself Binogono explained. He said he would like to go back to his country but it’s not safe. “Always keep your mind/focus on where you going but never forget where you came from. That’d be a dream come true for me to step a foot in the motherland,” he said.

Binogono said soccer has been a big part of his life. “I fell in love with the game first time touching the ball as a young kid,” he said. The KSC men’s soccer team has helped him in so many ways. “I could sit here and write a book about them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my teammates and coaches. They were there for my ups and downs moments,” Binogono said.

Keene State men’s soccer coach, Rick Scott said, “They bring a very interesting dynamic to the team, they’re fun kids, they’re very thoughtful, responsible and respectful.” When Scott went to Central High School In Manchester N.H., he didn’t think he had a shot of getting Binogono to play at Keene. “He was that good, I thought he was going to go division two. Long story short we ended up with him and his cousin Jacob came the next [school] year,” he said. All the boys have said Scott has been nothing but an amazing person on and off the field. Smith said Scott has been contacting him about playing at KSC since 2015 and the reason why Smith just transferred to Keene was because he wanted to work on his English.

Scott said, “What these kids have gone through is unbelievable.” Scott has even taken one of the players in, Samuel Binogono. When talking about Scott, Binogono calls him, “the man, the myth, the legend.”

Scott took in Binogono because his FASFA got messed up due to his parents not fully understanding the form when applying. Binogono had to take a year off because of this. Scott explained how they had to get this approved by the school and NCAA. Binogono came to Keene in 2015. Binogono said he wouldn’t be where he is now without Scott. “The man helped me more than anyone in the last 4 years. When I first came to college he put me aside and told me ‘I will take care of you and make sure you leave this place with a 4 years degree’ until now he has never broken the promise,” Binogono said. He described Scott as family.

Binogono said he learned a lot about Scott when living with him. “Not all superheros wear capes. The amount of time he puts in to help others amazes me. I will always be thankful that I met him,” he said.

Binogono said, “They [soccer team] truly made me believe that a team is more than just a team, a team is a family – a bond that can’t be broken.”

Adriana Sanchez can be contacted at

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