Estrela Leogane de U15, retorna para casa um Pro
- Thursday, April 07, 2011 6:03 PM
LEOGANE - Since a young age Pascal Milien had dreams of playing soccer. Although his father didn't approve of it, he was determined to make the Haitian National Team and be a star in the sport.
Pascal Millien remembers playing soccer for teams he didn’t know – for food.
He remembers running ten miles to practice to make the Haitian national team – then running ten miles home.
Millien remembers sleeping on the roofs of his friends’ homes after his father kicked him out of the house for defying his demand to forget about soccer.
At the age of 15, it was an international tournament that brought Pascal Millien to Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. He was playing for the Haitian U-15 National Soccer Team and his father, already living in Winter Haven, Florida, drove up to see his son play and then convinced him not to return to Haiti with his teammates.
“I didn’t know any English back then. What inspired me was a lot of friends said my soccer career is over. You’re just going to work in the service industry, in a hotel. I look them in the eye and say ‘no. This is not me’,” Millien said.
On his first day at Auburndale High School, he recalled sitting in classes not understanding one word spoken by the teacher or his classmates, until math class. A teacher’s aide was there to help Spanish-speaking students. As she translated, Millien’s ears perked up.
Piggybacking on other students’ translator is how he understood what was happening in class. But watching American TV is how he learned English.
His favorite show: The Jerry Springer Show.
“Seriously! Haitian people like the drama!” Millien said laughing. “I would watch the show with the subtitles, try to read them and repeat what people said.”
He was reluctant to speak in school, fearing his accent was too thick. He let his soccer skills speak for him. He scored 114 goals in three seasons for Auburndale.
His play grabbed the attention of then-HC United coach Duke Dunnigan, who recruited Millien to play on the club’s Super Y team. He wanted Millien on the team so badly, he would drive back and forth from his home in the Brandon area to Winter Haven to shuttle Millien to practice and games.
The relationship between Dunnigan and Millien went far beyond a coach-player rapport. Dunnigan said he liked Millien’s hard work and Christian values. He learned how Millien’s biggest fan – his mother – died when he was 10-years-old. Thinking of her still makes him cry today.
Millien and his father had another falling out. So, Dunnigan became a father figure, a stern motivator and upon realizing Millien was in the country illegally, an advocate for Millien to become a legal U.S. citizen.
Forms, petitions, interviews, hearings, documents – for five years, Dunnigan immersed himself in the roller coaster process, driving Millien to government offices and interviews with immigration officers, and finding an attorney who offered his assistance.
During the process, Millien said Dunnigan pushed him to pursue a college education. After a year at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, Millien transferred to the University of Tampa, and played under head coach Adrian Bush.
Millien racked up 79 career points, scoring 25 goals (including 10 game winners) and 29 assists at UT. He’s a two-time NCAA Division II All-American.
Millien graduated with a Sports Management degree on the same day as FC Tampa Bay’s inaugural season home opener last year.
It’s that desire to help as he’s been helped that compelled Millien to create his Millien Dreams Foundation, an organization that will create a soccer academy in his hometown of Leogane, Haiti. During the pre-season, the team allowed him to return to Haiti for three days to set up the academy, with the help of Scores International and Little Feet Sports.