It started as just an idea born in Costa Rica. But two local brothers have turned it into a reality, helping children in Central America, Africa and the Caribbean.
Since September 2017, Bryce Sobota, 18, and his brother, Alex Sobota, 16, have been collecting used soccer equipment to send to kids in third-world countries who don’t have access to the same gear used by kids in more developed nations.
But shipping equipment to foreign countries costs money, and the brothers are preparing for one of their most expensive shipments yet.
The Myrtle Beach teens were on a family vacation to Costa Rica in 2016 when they got the idea for Project Golden Goal.
It was a rainy day when the brothers, who have both played soccer for Myrtle Beach High School, visited a field near the house where they were staying.
“There was probably two or three other soccer teams there,” Alex said. “They didn’t have any cleats, they didn’t have real soccer balls, they were just popped and deflated. They didn’t have any shin guards or anything like we’d think of soccer here. I just remember thinking how different it is there, and yet they’re playing the same game and thought there had to be something we could do.”
Bryce said they ran into a kid named Pedro, who told them most kids there played in the streets and not leagues.
“He was saying how they all love soccer and play a lot, but most of the time they didn’t have the equipment needed,” Bryce said.
The brothers realized that most soccer players use their gear for a year and then throw it away in favor of newer stuff. But the gear they’re throwing away is still usable.
“We thought if we got everyone around the city, state, whatever, to just throw stuff in, we could ship it to other countries and help the kids there,” Bryce said.
Because of school and soccer obligations, the brothers didn’t get the foundation off the ground until 2017, after building a website. They began soliciting donations and equipment and in 2017 made their first two shipments of equipment to Haiti and Cameroon. The brothers just recently received pictures back from Cameroon of kids using the equipment.
“It was pretty enlightening and kind of opened my mind to how [much] bigger the world is from just our little scope,” Bryce said. “It’s pretty cool to see them using the same things we’d had.”
Right now, the brothers have collected about 1,200 pieces of equipment, enough to make two or three shipments to foreign countries. They want the next two shipments to go to Costa Rica and Nigeria.
Bryce said countries are chosen by asking partner organizations in each country about their need for gear and looking at the cost of shipping.
But shipping to Nigeria will be expensive, costing upwards of $700. The brothers say it will be one of their most expensive shipments.
“When we first started the nonprofit, we didn’t realize exactly how much the shipping was,” Bryce said.
On Saturday, the brothers held a charity soccer tournament starting at 10 a.m. at the old YMCA soccer fields on 65th Ave North in Myrtle Beach to raise money for shipping. Alex said they had about 100 players divided up into teams. Each person paid $10 to play, and the brothers are hoping it becomes an annual tournament.
“The sooner we do this, the sooner people in third-world nations can get the help they deserve,” Alex said.
Or donate equipment to:
▪ The X-Gym at 568 George Bishop Parkway, Myrtle Beach
▪ The North Myrtle Beach Aquatics Center at 1100 2nd Ave. South, North Myrtle Beach
▪ The Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA at 5000 Claire Chapin Epps Dr., Myrtle Beach
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian