Eh Hser Moo’s soccer career is coming full circle as the Langley Secondary student prepares to graduate and accept a scholarship to Trinity Western University.
The former Karen refugee is again playing for a local soccer team – dubbed the Douglas Park Dragons – in the neighbourhood where he first picked up most of his skills.
But he’s also had a frantic year, as he has packed in as much education as possible so he can graduate a full year early and take up his scholarship and start his post-secondary education.
Moo, who graduates in a few weeks, started playing soccer in the refugee camp in Thailand where he was born and lived with his family for the first eight years of his life.
His family’s life changed when they were accepted to Canada as refugees. The Karen people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) had been persecuted and fled the military government. Hundreds eventually came to Langley, mostly living in the City.
Before he arrived, Moo had some soccer background, noting his dad was “a bit of a star” too, but they didn’t exactly have a lot of equipment. He recalls playing with a ball made of paper wrapped in rubber bands in the refugee camp.
The family arrived in Canada in the winter.
“It was cool, because we didn’t have snow back in Thailand,” Moo said.
Before long, he was signed up with the Timbits League, a fun practice league that played around the Douglas Park area in Langley City, with other Karen refugees. Canada had accepted a number of the refugee families, who had fled persecution in Myanmar, formerly Burma.
From the Timbits, Moo went on to play with Langley United and Surrey United, and into High Performance Soccer.
Over the years, he said his “soccer IQ” has increased, one of his main strengths as a player.
“I know how to make the right plays at the right moment,” he said.
He brings enthusiasm to every game and practice, and tries to be a leader and encourage every other player on his teams.
Those skills got him noticed by recruiters at TWU.
“The coach saw me as a 2019 class recruit, and I didn’t tell him I was a grade lower,” Moo said about how he suddenly found himself needing to graduate straight from Grade 11.
Before that, Moo hadn’t been thinking much about post-secondary options. But when the chance came up, his mentor Herv Bezjak advised him to go for it and finish his secondary schooling.
Bezjak, who runs the Boys and Girls Club at Douglas Park and coached Moo in soccer early on, has been one of the people who has helped the teen.
“He’s always been part of my life,” Moo said.
So Moo decided to tackle the academic challenge, while also practicing four times a week and playing on weekends.
He joined the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at LSS, with teacher Kendall Sewell helping to guide him and other students.
AVID is aimed at helping kids get into post-secondary schools, and teaches study skills, self-advocacy, and takes students to visit universities, Sewell said.
“It was difficult,” Moo said, but he said teachers, councillors, and AVID all helped make it possible.
He took his English 12 course last summer, before he started Grade 11, and he’s wrapped up all his other graduation requirements this year.
“I’m a student-athlete, student comes before athlete,” Moo said.
His parents have also been supportive, and his mother has been a source of inspiration.
At one point, she was working three jobs to help support the family, which includes Moo and his six siblings, he said.
Many of the people in the small Karen community in Langley work hard just for basics like food and clothing for their families, he said.
That’s helped him think about what he might do with his university education.
Moo plans to study business, and he’s thinking about opening a local market once he’s graduated. He wants to supply the Karen-Canadian community with the foods that his parents generation finds hard to locate here in Canada.
“Supply them with what makes them feel at home,” he said.
Moo and his generation grew up here and he said he feels more Canadian, having spent most of his life here now.
But he’d like to help supply and employ people from the Karen community in the Lower Mainland.
That’s after his soccer career, of course.
“I always have dreams to go pro, but whatever happens, God has a plan,” Moo said.
In the meantime, he’s hoping to inspire others with his achievements.
“If you can work for something, it will happen,” he said.
His younger siblings are already thinking about sports as a path forward, he noted. One sister plays rugby at LSS and is interested in playing for TWU, and his younger brother is another rugby player.
Moo graduates this month, and he expects to start pre-season training over the summer for TWU.
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