“Regardless of what language you speak, and quite frankly if you’re literate or not literate, people understand that when a goal is made. It speaks in every language. You can be speaking Italian, English, Spanish, you name it, but when a goal is made, people understand.”
With that simple explanation, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner perfectly summarized not only the power of the beautiful game, but also the impact that a diverse club like the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash can have on its community. On Tuesday morning, Mayor Turner hosted his annual Mayor’s Literacy Leadership Breakfast at River Oaks Country Club and honored the Dynamo and the Dash for the club’s work throughout the Houston area.
While many organizations throughout the community work hard to improve literacy rates in Houston through various programmatic and financial means, the Dynamo and Dash have a unique opportunity to serve as role models and motivators for many throughout America’s most diverse city.
“Soccer is the world’s game, and we do have players from all over the world that play for the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash,” said Dynamo and Dash President Chris Canetti after accepting the Mayor’s Literacy Leadership Award on behalf of the club. “We have 20 different players that represent 15 different countries on our teams, and when they come here, certainly learning the English language is important. We work very hard to ensure that that’s the case.”
Dynamo midfielder Arturo Alvarez, a Houston native who has had to learn new languages while playing overseas and now helps his international teammates with English, said that having someone to lean on or look to can be a huge psychological help for people who may become intimidated by the challenge of learning language skills.
“I’ve been in a country where I’ve had to learn the language myself, so I know exactly how they feel,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes it can get a little bit more difficult as you get older to learn a new language, and you could be a little bit embarrassed by it, but I think it’s always important to have that encouragement from others.”
As the chief executive of the country’s most diverse city, Mayor Turner made it clear that just as sports bring all Houstonians together, improving literacy is something that benefits the entire community.
“If we invest in human infrastructure, we can get some tremendous results. When people are struggling with things in their lives, like literacy, those are walls. And when you remove those walls, then the city as a whole can move forward in a very positive way. And in this city, we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”
And just like on the pitch, that’s a goal that everyone in Houston can understand, regardless of language.