Soccer's Sattler Returns from Trip of a Lifetime to Africa
Aug. 22, 2012
Thousands of miles away from the freshly laid grass of Lorenz Field is a tiny Ethiopian village, where dirt and mud is a normal playing surface for futbollers to compete on. For Oregon State redshirt sophomore Julia Sattler, this rough and unforgiving terrain was the site of one of the most significant matches of her young career.
The 20-year old defender took part in a friendly game with fellow student athletes from OSU against players from the village of Silti. Sattler and a dozen of other Beavers were in the small east African nation because of a unique program called ‘Beavers without Borders’, which gives student-athletes a chance to travel around the world and participate in various service projects.
“The goal of the program is to kind of give student-athletes an opportunity to use our skills and talents to go abroad and help other people,” Sattler explained.
With that in mind, the Portland, Ore. native teamed up with student-athletes from other OSU sports teams to travel to one of the world’s poorest nations. Their mission: to help build two homes for local families to live in.
“You hear about poverty and you see it on TV, but when you actually go and see it in real life it is different and shocking,” Sattler said about her initial experience. “To see that people live in such a small space with so much trash around and poor sanitation, it is pretty overwhelming.”
“I think it was a tremendous experience for her to go and see what it’s like in a third world country,” thought OSU women’s soccer coach Linus Rhode. “It was a huge life lesson.”
Needles to say Sattler and her fellow Beavers’ were well received when they arrived at their village’s worksite.
“The first day we had this huge welcoming party,” she remembered. “We drove in and there were all these women around us that were cheering, dancing and clapping and that ran with our van the whole way.”
Once Sattler and her crew got outside of their vehicle, she was surprised to see that she and the other Beavers were treated like celebrities in their temporary African home.
“The women who had been running (with our van) eventually showed up and did this big dance,” she recalled. “They were just so warm, welcoming and so excited for us to be there.”
After the pomp and circumstances of the groups’ arrival it was time to get to work, which Sattler was excited to finally take part in.
“We just started to build and we really didn’t know how to do it,” she admitted. “The foundation was laid out, which was basically a concrete square but the middle was hollow. The framework was just a bunch of Eucalyptus tree branches, so with a nail and hammer we had to fill in the branches.”
The busy Beavers worked hard at trying to construct these homes for families who desperately needed them, but their efforts did not come without its fair share of criticism.
“We were not good with the hammers at the start and I think the villagers were a little worried,” the soccer player turned carpenter explained. “The majority of us were also women and women do not build homes in the area. We had help from a bunch of carpenters but even they said, ‘No let me do it. Give me the hammer, take a rest and have some tea or water.’”
It was not all about sweat and hard work for the baker’s dozen of OSU student-athletes, as the group was able to take a break from their building and suit up for a friendly soccer match with the locals.
“They thought that we were a group of professional soccer players, so they prepared for weeks in advance with their local team,” Sattler fondly recalled. “They eventually found out that I was the only soccer player and the rest weren’t, so they toned it down a little bit.”
Even though the redshirt sophomore had played in her fair share of important matches before, this one would be nothing like any she took the field for.
“Going in I didn’t know what to expect because I had no idea how big the field was going to be or if we were going to be on grass or have goals and referees,” She explained. “So we showed up in our vans to this gate and there were a bunch of kids outside. When the gates opened we drove in and there were literally 1,000 to 2,000 people there.”
Once inside, Sattler had a chance to size up her surroundings and the field of play.
For what the tiny village’s soccer ‘stadium’ lacked in amenities, it sure made up for in its atmosphere, as Sattler became overwhelmed with emotion when she saw the environment that was waiting for her.
“I was so surprised and overjoyed that I started to cry,” she remembered. “It was amazing that all these people were here because it was just a friendly soccer game. I was the only soccer player but they just loved it so much.”
The match itself went back and forth, with the home team taking control of the game early as Sattler played a pivotal role in her team’s comeback.
“We played the game and we weren’t that great but I assisted (OSU football player) Brian (Watkins), who scored and we tied it at 1-1, so the fans just went crazy,” she recalled. “We ended up losing 5-3 or something like that, but I scored two PK’s (penalty kicks) and that was something else. I had never taken a PK like that in my entire life and I will never take one like that again.”
What made both penalty shots so unique in Sattler’s eyes? The pure presence of fans, not players on the pitch as she reared back to strike the ball.
“There were literally people all around me and they were inside the 18-yard box as wide as the six,” she said. “As soon as the PK was called everyone just rushed to the goal and I couldn’t even see through the back of the goal because there were so many fans. It was definitely the biggest PK I have ever taken in my life.”
While Sattler’s squad ended up losing to the home team that day, the score meant little to the soccer playing student-athlete as she reaffirmed her love for the game.
“It meant so much to me because the whole week, soccer was really the way I was able to connect with the villagers,” she said. “Because I couldn’t speak their same language, soccer was my language because it is a universal sport. I felt like even though I couldn’t speak the same language as them we could share our communities and become friends through soccer.”
“In a lot of ways she (Julia) can relay the message to the rest of the team how lucky we are to have what we have,” explained Coach Rhode. “To see the passion people have there for the game and how they make do what they have, she now understands that this is the people’s game because it brings everybody together.”
“What I like about my experience is that I saw soccer in its truest form,” Sattler stated. “Just soccer for the joy of soccer and I feel like it was really the beautiful game as everyone says it is.”
Sattler hopes to make a return to Ethiopia and the tiny village of Butajira in the near future, so she can reconnect with the many new friends she has made over there.
BEAVERS WITHOUT BORDERS WEBSITE: http://beaverswithoutborders.com/