From the streets of Burundi to the Foster soccer pitch, Desire Katameya’s a scoring machine.
The 5-foot-5 forward leads the region with 20 goals and 44 points, and his team with four assists. Despite all his success on the field, Katameya is no stranger to challenges.
Katameya was born the Democratic Republic of Congo, and lived in Bukavu, a large city on the Rwandan border, for eight years. When Katameya was ten, his family fled to Burundi to escape civil war violence. Living in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, Katameya’s uncle encouraged him to play street soccer to socialize with the other children.
Katameya’s family made it to the United States on refugee status about a year and a half ago. After Katameya, 16, immigrated to the United States, he enrolled at Foster High School in Tukwila. Katameya faced a language barrier, like many of his fellow classmates. His first language is French, and he also speaks some dialects native to the DRC.
“I didn’t even speak, ‘Hi,'” Katameya said. “If you say something I was like, ‘I don’t understand what you say.'”
At first it was difficult to communicate with coaches and teammates, whose nationalities and corresponding first languages are as varied as you can get: Mexico, Nepal, Turkey, Burma and Somalia to name a few. Foster soccer coach Nasir Tura, who’s originally from Nairobi, could communicate with Katameya in Swahili, which is similar to dialects native to the DRC.
“Last year I was a little bit confused, but this year I calm my brain down and learn more of what [Tura’s] teaching,” Katameya said. “I was confused because I didn’t know English so well…just French, and nobody [on the team] speaks French. So nobody speaks my language.”
Katameya lives with his parents Michael and Christina, and younger siblings John, 7, and Samuela, 4. Michael works two jobs on the overnight shift, but Tura said Michael never misses Katameya’s games.
“He gets a lot of support from his dad and his family,” Tura said.
Going from street soccer to an organized team on a large-scale turf field brought its own adjustments. Although he had no formal training, it didn’t take Tura and the Bulldogs long to discover that this kid can play soccer.
“He’s a street soccer player, so he has the skills,” Tura said. “He’s a complete soccer player from fundamentals…The struggle for him last year was understanding the bigger field, which is the tactical part.”
By the time Foster reached the state tournament last year, Tura said Katameya really understood the larger setting, and how to create shots for himself.
As a sophomore, Katameya has drawn some interest from scouts, mostly from community colleges and semi-professional teams. One of the games where two scouts were present, Katameya scored a season high four goals against Renton. Katameya also scored four goals against Lindbergh, a game which coach Ryan Johnson said was “absolute misery.”
“We didn’t do a very good job of covering him, and when you give him that space, he’s going to make you pay the price,” said Johnson. “He has the natural instinct of getting to the right spot to score.”
Katameya lights up when you ask him about soccer, which as a 10-year-old Katameya declared he didn’t want anything to do with. He watches the greats, France’s Zinedine Zidane and Sounders’ Clint Dempsey, and they are his teachers.
“Those great players, they do something on TV, and the next day we want to do the same thing that they did,” said Tura. “Desire’s that kind of player.”
The future is still untold for Katameya, but you can bet that he will be learning from the masters and practicing his street moves to perfection.