From Congo to Canada

Loi Esengi (Submitted/AQ)
Loi Esengi (Submitted/AQ)

Growing up in Congo, Loi Esengi played a lot of soccer. Esengi wasn’t able to go to school. Every time her mother went to talk to the principal, he would just ignore her. Instead Esengi would have to do house chores, like walking five hours to get fire wood and 90 minutes for water.

“After that I would just go out and play soccer with the boys,” said Esengi, who has played ever since she was a kid. “We had to move a lot back home due to war.”

War was why Esengi and her family moved to Canada. Her family was sponsored by a church, allowing them to make the change. After a few weeks living in the UK they made the move to Quebec, where they stayed for a few months. Then they made a more permanent residence in Sarnia, Ont.

“I only knew ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’. That’s it,” said Esengi. “I didn’t know how to turn the lights on and off. It was quite hard at first.”

After a year of living in Canada, Esengi got back to the game she loved. First she joined a girl’s house league, but didn’t like it.

“I asked my mom if I could play with the boys because I had always played with the boys,” said Esengi, who never played with girls until that point.

She joined the boy’s house league team, but that wasn’t challenging enough for her. A week later she joined a travel team. After that she continued playing on boys teams.

Last year Esengi took the year off, not wanting to get injured because she had been asked to play on the USA Junior Olympics team. Despite her efforts to take it easy, she still got injured while playing in a winter league. Esengi ended up fracturing her foot and wasn’t able to play for Team USA.

“It was such a great opportunity playing for Junior Olympics,” said Esengi. “I just blew it away by breaking my foot.”

When time for picking a university came around, STU was the first choice. She had the option of going to Crandall and some schools in the United States.

“My mom didn’t like the States much, considering she’s heard stories about the shooting and stabbings, so she was really paranoid.”

It came down to STU and Crandall. The Tommies women’s soccer coach Macky Singh saw her profile on a recruiting website and contacted her about playing for him. Esengi liked how he coached, and took the opportunity.

The injury she got while playing in the winter league got re-injured and Esengi hasn’t had a chance to play this year. Regardless, she thinks the team is doing great, and is looking forward to the possibility of making playoffs. The team just needs to win two out of their next five games and they will clinch a playoff position.

“We’ve got a strong team. I think we will go to nationals this year.”

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