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A life lived at fever pitch Lost Boy from Sudan finds solace on the soccer field

Ask most college athletes how they ended up at their particular school and you'll hear stories of recruiting, finding the right coach and the desire to help rebuild a program.

But ask sophomore Peter Anthony how he ended up playing soccer at Buffalo State and you'll get an entirely different type of tale.

"Ah, actually it's a long story," he said. "My name is Peter Anthony and I was born in the Sudan."

It's not the typical background of a Division III soccer player. But it's a story that Anthony is accustomed to telling.

The 20-year-old came to Buffalo State from Tully High School near Syracuse.

Before that, however, came a journey not unfamiliar to young men and boys from a homeland suffering a humanitarian crisis.

Like many of his former countrymen and women, Anthony's family was caught in the middle of Sudan's civil war. The conflict began in 1983 as Islamic law was imposed on the country, spurring clashes between the Muslim north and the Christian south. According to the United Nations, more than 4 million people have been displaced by the war, which officially ended in 2005.

Anthony and his family fled the Sudan when he was 6, landing in a refugee camp in Kenya.

"Life in Africa, where I grew up, it's really tough," Anthony said. "In the U.S., they talk about the most dangerous places where people are shooting each other. Me? I could live here like peacefully. Where I was living in Sudan, you couldn't spend 20 minutes there.

"You see dead people. People, the police, they don't take the carcasses off the street. Here, on the highway you see a dead deer, you call 911 and have someone take it off the road. But there, whoever is dead is dead. You just have to fight for your own life."

Anthony's journey took him from the refugee camp to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. He had an uncle living there who had escaped the Sudan before the war began. The uncle went to speak with a Catholic nun from Germany who had been living in Africa and working with refugees for a number of years.

The nun, Sister Louisa, instructed Anthony to come to Nairobi where he was put in a boarding school and began learning English and Swahili. He stayed in school there through the eighth grade when, in 2000, the United States began a refugee policy to allow asylum in America for the so-called Lost Boys from the Sudan. These were boys orphaned or displaced by the country's civil war. With help from the German nun, Anthony made his application to come to the U.S.

"Sister Louisa, she's known to have some kind of international relations," Anthony said. "So, she went over to the U.S Embassy and presented my name. They asked us to write a life story so you know, you just wrote your life story, sent it over and waited every day. All of a sudden my name came up. You have to prove yourself that you really came from the Sudan."

Anthony passed the interview, but his entry to the United States was delayed a year after 9/1 1 happened in 2001 and the refugee program was suspended. On Sept. 17, 2002, he came to the United States. Then 15 years old, he went to live with Robert and Barbara Rogers in suburban Syracuse.

The Rogerses, whose own son had gone off to college, had heard through their church about the need for foster parents for the Lost Boys. They went through the certification process and waited for placements from Catholic Charities. In New York State, 1,300 refugees from the Sudan have been resettled since 1997, with 497 taken in by families from Buffalo.

Anthony is amazed at the acceptance his American family showed him, treating him as if he was their biological son. He has kept in regular contact with his uncle in Nairobi and located two of his biological brothers living in Canada. He recently located his biological parents living in a refugee camp in Kenya. He was planning to visit them, but quirks with his travel visa have shelved those plans for the moment.

But he has an extended foster family in the United States, including his foster "brother" and fellow former refugee Lopez Lomong, a budding national track star.

"It took a lot for them to adjust and I think Peter is still adjusting a bit," said Barbara Rogers. "When he first got here, he was very reserved, taking everything in. . . . He is much more open, more social and I guess my perspective is that I think he knows that life can be good for him now. He has the opportunity to make the most of his life and he's very good at seeking out opportunities."

One of those opportunities was playing soccer. He started playing his sophomore year at Tully High School and became a league all-star. He also ran track and was part of a relay team with his two foster brothers, but Lomong was the real runner in the family. Last year, as a sophomore at Northern Arizona, Lomong was the national champion in the 1,500 meters while also winning the indoor title in the 3,000 meters.

Soccer remains Anthony's first love.

"I don't want to say something bad about what Lopez is doing but the thing is I don't like running that way -- a lot of miles for fun. I like running with something to chase. So that's why I started soccer."

Continuing his soccer career at Buffalo State, Anthony is a midfielder for a Bengals team that went 8-6-4 overall this season, qualifying for the State University of New York Athletic Conference playoffs for just the third time in 10 years. The Bengals on Tuesday lost their opening round game to Cortland on penalty kicks.

Continuing his education, Anthony is a political science major and enjoys speaking to groups about life in Africa -- something he started doing while in high school. Last spring, he was invited to speak to the United Nations about life in Darfur, a region of western Sudan that is torn by ethnic and tribal conflicts.

His foster mother says that Anthony has a way to connect with his audience whether it be high school and college students or adults.

For Anthony, he wants to make sure that people understand what life is really like in the Sudan.

"I tell people to not believe everything you read or everything you hear on the news," Anthony said. "You really have to go see it to understand it."


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