Asfi Saeed getting ready to throw a lineout during practice. Jonathan Wong photo.

Asfi Saeed getting ready to throw a lineout during practice. Jonathan Wong photo.

From war-torn Syria to the fields of Vic High

Refugee finds success of rugby field

Whenever Husam Carrach stepped outside his house, he didn’t know if he would live or die.

Husam and his family grew up in Syria, a country that has been ravaged by war in recent years. Every day Husam lived in fear that he, one of his two younger brothers, mother or father would leave the house and never come home again.

“When you go outside, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you, you don’t know if you’re going to live or die,” said the now 14-year-old, adding the city he lived in was dangerous, but not as bad as other cities in the country. He was young at the time and didn’t understand the true danger he faced. “Any second you could go to prison.”

Husam was only 11 years old when his father made the decision to leave their home behind, in search of a new way of life in Canada. The family fled to Istanbul, Turkey where they spent the next three years. It was last year when the young family eventually made their way to Victoria.

For the past year-and-a-half, Husam has been adjusting to life in Victoria. Now, he’s looking ahead to his future. In the seven months since he enrolled at Victoria High School, he has made friends and learned English, and is now taking on a new challenge — playing rugby with the school team.

While Husam played soccer recreationally in Syria, rugby was not on his radar until fellow student and rugby player Asfi Saeed asked him to join. Since Husam first laced up his cleats a month ago, he hasn’t stopped playing.

“I like it very much. I like the team, I like the coach. It’s a very cool game,” Husam said. “I always tried to fix my mistakes and the team helped me every time … every game I play I like it more. I like the adrenaline. I like this kind of sport, it’s hard and tough.”

Playing fullback and practicing with the team twice a week has helped Husam make new friends and connect with the school, said Greg Pitre, the school’s athletic director.

Husam’s love of the sport is a feeling Asfi shares as well. The 16-year-old has played with the school’s team for the past two years, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. When he has the ball, he feels like something can stop him.

I just love the sport — the physicality. I just get that feeling when I get the ball and I start running, it’s the adrenaline. It’s amazing, I love it,” said Asfi, who plays eighth man with the school and prop with the James Bay Athletic Association. “When I get the ball my eyes light up and I just want to run at the opponent.”

The team has two more games left in the regular season, one against St. Michael’s University School and Oak Bay High in the coming weeks.