State Champion Elsik High School soccer team's diversity reflects World Cup

- The World Cup showcases players from more than two dozen different countries. That diversity is represented in several of our local schools, but perhaps nowhere more than at Alief Elsik High School.  

At first glance, you wouldn't think this team would work. 

"Everybody has a different style of play.  When we get in, we're just different," said Mayno Linares, 17.

Different because of where they're from. 

"Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nigeria.  We have Tanzania, Chile and Colombia," said coach Vincenzo Cox. 

The team has at least seven different countries represented.

When asked about the secret to success, they say there isn't one.

"The diversity. There's no secret the whole district is very diverse," said Eliaz Zamora, goalkeeper. 

Alief ISD in southwest Houston is home to about 45,000 students who speak more than 60 languages.

Cox says many families move to the district from other countries in pursuit of the American dream.

The team is a reflection of Cox's leadership. 

"In the beginning I had an open heart.  I trusted these kis would come in, be a family and everyone would just love each other, right? That's not how it works with cultures, and that's not how it works with teenagers," he said.

He encourages his players to listen carefully to each other to avoid culture clashes. 

"We do things, they sit in dif places on the bus , we get to know each other."

This mix of nationalities has become more like a band of brothers.

"These are not only my best friends, these are my brothers, my true brothers," said Linares. 

"Our coach, he always teaches us about being family," said Usman Sotomi."

That attitude led them to their first state soccer title this year and now big dreams to represent their families' home countries in the World Cup one day.  Sotomi moved here from Nigeria four years ago.

"It would mean a lot. I've always wanted to represent my country," said Sotomi.

Cox says his goal is for these guys to come back years from now and still feel like family despite their different roots.

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