UMSL soccer uniforms, gear fill need for children in Uganda

Soccer players from Uganda wearing donated UMSL uniforms

Children in Uganda wear UMSL Tritons uniforms, which were donated by the Department of Athletics.

What started as a need to clear space has ended in a donation of helping children in Uganda.

Bobby Lessentine, head coach of the University of Missouri–St. Louis women’s soccer team, who begins his fifth year on the sidelines this fall, said old gear that has been cycled out had been piling up since before he even took over the program. Instead of tossing it out or further adding to the accumulation, he wanted it to be put to good use, which it has through Field of Dreams Uganda. 

Field of Dreams Uganda, based out of Evansville, Ind., provides hope for the orphaned and vulnerable children of Uganda through the vehicles of soccer and education. Soccer is a great passion of children in the country and through this organization, each orphanage is provided with field upgrades and equipment to participate in at least two tournaments a year. Local coaches are hired to teach the children not only soccer, but life skills including team work, discipline and work ethic, which they use to succeed both on and off the field.

Lessentine learned of Field of Dreams Uganda while talking to fellow coaching colleagues and was put in touch with Mike Warneke, the organization’s executive director.

“We were really happy to hear about Field of Dreams Uganda and the great work they do,” Lessentine said. “They have a well thought out and targeted mission and it’s nice to be able to donate to this organization and have our old gear be put to good use.”

Among the items donated were uniforms, balls and gently used soccer socks and shoes. Both the UMSL men’s and women’s soccer programs will also partner with Field of Dreams Uganda during their games on Oct. 20 against Southern Indiana, where they will be collecting additional items for the organization.

Warneke returned to the United States earlier this month after taking the UMSL uniforms to the African nation. Upon his return, he sent Lessentine an email with photos of the children at African Greater Life in the donated gear.

“When you see these children in Uganda playing soccer in our old uniforms, it really makes you appreciate what we not only have here at UMSL, but in this country. It’s both inspiring and humbling to see them enjoying that luxury of having a nice uniform to play in,” Lessentine said. “We are really excited about working with them this fall and really hope we can continue to help this organization and the children in Uganda.”

For more information on Field of Dreams Uganda, visit the organization’s website at http://www.fieldsofdreamsuganda.org.


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