Anastasia Z., who learned the game of soccer in Abbotsford after arriving from Ukraine, has been named the Abbotsford Soccer Association’s player of the month. (Submitted)

Anastasia Z., who learned the game of soccer in Abbotsford after arriving from Ukraine, has been named the Abbotsford Soccer Association’s player of the month. (Submitted)

Young Ukrainian transplant named Abbotsford Soccer Association’s player of the month

Anastasia Zelenko learned the game in Abbotsford and has adapted quickly on and off the pitch

A young Abbotsford soccer player who has overcome tremendous challenges has been named the Abbotsford Soccer Association’s player of the month.

Anastasia Zelenko was only five years old when she travelled alone from her native Ukraine to escape the danger going on in that country. Her parents had to remain when the country was invaded and Zelenko’s aunt in Canada was able to provide her a new home in Abbotsford.

This summer was her first ever time playing on the pitch and competing in an organized soccer practice.

Her first practice was challenging in more ways than one – not only did she have to learn a new language and meet new friends, but she also had to overcome her fears of playing the game. The coaches tried their best to communicate with Zelenko, but they found that it wasn’t always easy; they needed help from Zelenko’s aunt, who spoke Ukrainian.

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When her aunt shared their family’s story with the coaches, they learned how far she had come from Ukraine—and how much she needed to have something positive to focus on. They decided that cultivating an environment where Zelenko felt safe and included was critical so that she would be able to learn and grow within their team.

During the first practice, Zelenko was overwhelmed and had a lot of anxiety in the new athletic environment; she froze on the field and couldn’t even take a step forward. But by the time she got to play in a game against the parents, her sense of competition flourished and she began running after the ball and trying to tackle it away from the parents.

A month later, Zelenko had completed all four camps the club offered and she had made a complete turn around. She was kicking the ball, dribbling on her own, and she scored many goals. She also began trying to speak English to other players and coaches as well, which showed her English skill had grown as well.

According to the ASA, her coaches are incredibly proud of Zelenko’s growth over the course of just one month. She is a gifted soccer player, and she has already shown promising signs of brilliance. After a month of growth, she is now able to show off all of her tremendous skills in a game setting.

Zelenko was named player of the month by her coaches who cited her bravery, cheery attitude, and skill improvement as central tenets of her nomination. The ASA stated that they are privileged to be a part of Zelenko’s journey and are happy to recognize her growth as a young player with a lot of potential on the pitch.

She earned a $100 gift card from Canadian Tire for the player of the month nod.

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