Peterson: Asia trip leaves mark on Concordia women's soccer team

Moorhead - Bekah Marcis and Haley Haddock went to southeast Asia in July to play soccer. They came back with a life experience that will stay etched in their minds.

Moorhead - Bekah Marcis and Haley Haddock went to southeast Asia in July to play soccer. They came back with a life experience that will stay etched in their minds.

"It took a toll on a lot of the girls emotionally," said Marcis. "The main thing that we talked about was when we came back was we didn't what to forget that we saw there, and how we felt."

Marcis, Haddock and their Concordia women's soccer teammates toured Thailand and Cambodia during the summer. The purpose of the trip was competition and training, tourism and service.

The service part of the trip is what sticks with Marcis and Haddock. The team visited the SALT (Sports And Leadership Training) Academy in Battambang, Cambodia.

The academy serves as a safe haven for young girls who may otherwise be exposed to sex or labor trafficking. One of the ways SALT (which also teaches trades to its students) does this is through soccer.


"It's really difficult for me even to know now some of these girls, these 13-year-old girls, were in brothels," Cobbers head coach Dan Weiler said. "I can't even think of it as reality, even though I know that it was and is. ... There is a strong thread of racism that runs through that country. It's a male-dominated society."

Weiler said the girls in the academy were either already involved in human trafficking or were rescued right before being sold.

"These families don't sometimes see their children as children, but more as a property and to basically just have a monetary gain from selling them," Weiler said. "It becomes an illogical monetary decision, a business transaction, without any humanity to it."

The Concordia players spent three days with girls from SALT during their two-week tour. Concordia played against the Mighty Girls, the academy's soccer team that has players that range in age from 13 to 20 years old.

A senior defender from Bismarck, Marcis is a social work major. She has done projects on sex trafficking for school. Marcis was overwhelmed when she met the girls at SALT, putting a real face on what she had researched.

"I couldn't sleep that night," Marcis said. "I just stayed up the whole night and wrote in my journal. Girls should get to feel empowered."

Concordia had some of the girls from the academy come to its hotel to use the swimming pool one day. Marcis remembers coming to the pool area and seeing the girls from SALT sitting along the pool and not wanting to get into the water. Marcis said she did a cannon ball into the pool to try to lighten the mood.

Marcis said the hotel workers got upset that she was in the pool.


Marcis' Concordia teammates then jumped into the water and slowly the girls from the academy followed.

"I could see how there is a hierarchy there and those girls were looked down upon," Marcis said. "They didn't want them in their pool and their facility."

Haddock was equally as frustrated with the scene.

"There, they can't even go swimming," Haddock said. "For us, I just wanted to grab a girl and like, 'We're jumping in this pool.' There, with their power structure, you just don't do that."

Because of experiences like that, the Concordia team wanted to remain involved with SALT after the trip ended. The team is starting a student organization to raise awareness for human trafficking and also raise funds for SALT.

Players plan to exchange letters with players on the Mighty Girls team. The Mighty Girls watched the Concordia team play its final game on the tour of Southeast Asia and the postgame scene provided a touching moment.

"All the girls from the Mighty Girls, they all came and gave all the girls from our team a scarf," Marcis said. "I think one moment that really got to our team. It was really overwhelming for all of us because we were all like, 'You guys don't have anything, yet you are giving us a gift?' "

Marcis is more driven to go into social work after her experience in Asia. She would like to return to the SALT Academy for a few months after she is done with school.


"After being in Cambodia, I know that is something I need to do," Marcis said. "There are girls that go through terrible things, things I can't even imagine, and I find that so unfair. It was really hard to leave."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson's blog can be found at

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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