Column Soccer Wilson

COLUMN: A Happy Ending To An American Dream

I think all student-athletes walk across their high school graduation stage with a level of uncertainty. From the ones going play at the next level, to the ones who will never play their sport again, they’re all turning the page an an unwritten chapter.

I know Brayan Mora felt that uncertainty, and then some, when he finished his short stay at Wilson.

Mora, 18, never played organized soccer while growing up in Táchira, Venezuela. He left his immediate family and his home country full of political strife in 2017 to play in America. Mora traveled from Florida to Utah and finally to Long Beach last year when he joined the Bruins soccer team.

I interviewed him about his journey in January, and a few months later he and his teammates won the first Moore League boys’ soccer title in 12 years while he was also waiting to hear about his status as a political refugee. We named Mora the All-City International Player of the Year this summer.

“It was really hard in the beginning,” Mora said though a translator. “But I never gave up, and I got a lot of help from my coach C.J. (Brewer) and principal (Gonzalo) Moraga.”

“He had to miss school to go to his immigration appointments with me driving him over there and trying to find people to help translate,” Brewer said. “All of these other people had professional translators and lawyers. He did all of that himself. We tried to connect the dots for him when he needed some help, but most of it he had set with pictures of the protesters and how they were trying to get him to join their movement. Then the police would take him out of class in school and take his debit card and say that if they saw him protesting they were going to charge him on his card.”

Mora was forced to work a job and get paid under the table this summer while waiting to hear from the immigration office after the Trump Administration put a three-month hold on all Venezuelan political refugee cases.

Earlier this month, Mora finally got the letter so many immigrants dream of receiving.

“I was nervous and shaking when I open the envelope,” Mora said.

Inside was a letter accepting Mora’s application for political asylum with a government-issued ID for employment purposes. He should get his Social Security card next month.

“I cheered pretty loud,” Mora said. “I was relieved.”

With proper identification, Mora is now free to search for a job and chase his dream of playing professional soccer. He tried out for the Galaxy Academy team this month, and despite scoring a handful of goals during two days of tryouts, Mora wasn’t one of the seven players selected for the team out of almost 200 participants. However, he’s staying positive like he has throughout the last year.

“It gave me confidence to play like that,” Mora said. “I’m not giving up.”

Mora said he’s willing to go anywhere in order to try out, but he knows the situation in Venezuela will always weigh heavy on his heart.

“The situation affects me a lot because I love my country and my people who are still there,” Mora said. “My parents miss me a lot, and I talk to my mom on the phone every night when I get home.”

Mora’s father is able to visit the United States, but his mother and siblings can’t legally make the trip. Mora said he misses his 8-year-old sister Valentina the most, and doesn’t know if he’ll ever see her again.

“I can’t go back and that makes me sad,” Mora said. “I knew when I left I wouldn’t be able to come back. A few months ago I was really sad after the season. I just have to keep trying until I make a soccer team because that’s the only thing that’s going to make me feel better. It’s the only thing that will make it worth it.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.