RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Richmond Kickers play their first match of the 2021 season on Saturday, and while the players are focused on that, Oalex Anderson can’t help but think about home as well.
Anderson was born and raised in St. Vincent, an island nation in the Caribbean, and with the exception of maybe a soccer pitch, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
“It’s a really nice country. I love it,” Anderson said prior to the team’s practice on Thursday morning. “On my off-seasons, I usually go home. I don’t want to be anywhere else but home.
However, there was one place he always refused to visit- La Soufriere volcano.
“Schools, they usually do field trips to the volcano,” he recalled. “Every time I made up an excuse. I’m like ‘I’m not feeling good today.’ I never visited the volcano just because of something like that.”
Not since 1979 had La Soufriere erupted, until last Friday, when a cloud of ash spewed out of the mountain on the island’s north end. Anderson had recently returned from St. Vincent the week prior, after playing on the country’s national soccer team. He learned of the massive blasts while in the states.
“Over the weekend I haven’t slept well, I haven’t eaten well, just because I was so concerned,” Anderson said. “I was so worried about what was going on back home.”
Much of his family still resides in St. Vincent and has been evacuated to safe zones away from danger. He speaks with his mother and sister daily. Anderson even watched some of the eruptions through his mother’s phone, as she was at work last Friday in view of the volcano.
“I was seeing it while it was happening. I was seeing it live because she called me every time and showed me.”
The well-being of his family, friends and country has weighed heavily on the soccer star’s mind, since Friday, but he’s found comfort on the soccer field. It’s a place where he can escape for two hours and get a break amidst the worries.
“Being here actually brings a little peace, a little freedom for me. At least two hours of freedom per day, ever since last week Friday,” noted Anderson.
His team has stepped up and is behind him. The Kickers started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for logistics and supplies for the ailing nation.
“I think everybody here has rallied around Oalex,” said Kickers’ head coach Darren Sawatzky. “All the guys are helping him raise money to help his country and we’re going to do whatever we can to help him.”
“It means a lot, it really does,” Anderson said of his team’s efforts. “It actually brought me a lot closer to everyone. I know this is a family, but after this weekend, after what happened, I know for sure that I’m in the right place.”
Through it all, Anderson notices the unity, as countries come together to help St. Vincent get through this adversity and overcome.
“To see everybody come together and help each other, even the ones overseas just helping and lending a hand, its a really good thing to see.”
NBC News is reporting that roughly 20,000 people have been displaced by the eruptions so far. Those eruptions could continue for weeks.
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