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Game changer: Bison soccer players help train deaf middle school student

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MOORHEAD, Minn. — A group of NDSU athletes has turned out to be the game changer for an aspiring soccer player who attends Horizon Middle School in Moorhead.

The 8th grader loves the game, but his career has been stalled.

The reason? Local soccer clubs won't pay for an interpreter for the 14-year old, who is deaf.

So, even though they are in the off season, Bison soccer players are still in the game — this time, coaching.

Ben, Jeff, and Puma are volunteering at Horizon Middle School, teaching some of the finer points of soccer to Batijar Arifi.

Batijar has been deaf and unable to speak since birth.

His dream of playing soccer has hit many road bumps, mainly, learning the rules of the game and who does what.

"He is like everyone else out there," says Moorhead teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, Krystal Anderson. "He is very athletic, he's pretty skilled. He works hard every day. He is definitely a bright spot in my day. He has a good sense of humor too, so that's also fun."

Anderson stepped up with this game and this team.

"He looks up to those players, and they've enjoyed it too, I think," says Anderson "He has learned a lot of vocabulary."

Batijar tried to play league soccer in Fargo-Moorhead, but was not accepted when it was learned he would need an interpreter.

He would show up at games, with equipment on, and not play.

"I felt really sad," says Batijar.

Batijar not only is learning from a soccer board, but the college players take him outside, do drills, and see something that does not leave his face — one giant smile.

"It is a passion for him, he really enjoys it, every time we come it is one of the highlights of his school week," says soccer player, Ebuma Namarra.

Batijar hopes to make the Moorhead High Soccer team next year.

He's busted barriers before, look for him on the field.

Batijar's favorite position to play on the soccer field is midfielder.

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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