People of all backgrounds meet on the soccer pitch

While the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has many different cultures and people who speak many different languages, there is one many share – a love for soccer.

People from many nations and every continent can be found on the pitch during a pickup game on the UNL campus. It’s one of the few places where such a diverse group of people can be found participating in the same thing.

But then soccer is special after all. It is a sport played around the world.

“It brings people together from many different cultures, many different backgrounds,” said Aliff Zolkifli, a student from Malaysia.  “You just show up and play. You get to know people. That’s the most fun thing about playing pickup soccer.”

Being a part of such a diverse group allows the players to grow in their skillsets and get to know about more cultures around the world. They learn from each other on and off the pitch.

Zolkifli said when he came to the United States, it was the first time visiting a different country and meeting people from different cultures.

“It’s fun meeting people with different perspectives about soccer and about the world in general,” he said. “It changed my game play and changed me as a person.”

Zolkifli, who plays on a semi-professional team in Lincoln, tries to hone his skills in pickup games. They are a way to have some fun and improve.

A few people, like Zolkifli, choose to play to practice, while others play as a fun way to keep in shape.

“It keeps me in shape,” said U.S. native Zach Votipka. “I am not really motivated to run on a treadmill or ride a bike, or any other aerobic activity. I need a ball to chase. It makes it fun.”

The games are played on most evenings of the week, unless another campus activity occupies the fields. There isn’t ever a set time to play. When people want to play, they post on the UNL Pickup Soccer Club Facebook group page and whoever can make it, joins them.

UNL pickup soccer is a group open to anyone. They play in the Cook Pavilion or on Mable Lee and Vine fields.

“It’s really multi-cultured here,” Votipka said. “It exposes you to other cultures, nationalities and languages, and different styles of play when it comes to the game itself. You make friends from all across the world.”

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