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MANILA, Philippines – For a foreign student-athlete, it’s already hard enough to live up to expectations both in the classroom and on the court while being thousands of kilometers away from home.
However, when that athlete also can’t speak the host country’s languages fluently, then the difficulty of daily life is cranked all the way up.
That is the situation that Margot Mutshima finds herself in as the NU Lady Bulldogs reinforcement in the new UAAP Season 82.
But while her English vocabulary is limited to the most basic words like “good” and “win,” her teammates have gone out of their way to make sure she fits in with her team like she’s one of their own.
“Sa training, sinasabi ko lang sa kanya lagi: ‘Margot, smile. Happy, happy. You look at me,'” said returning team captain Risa Sato. “Mga ganoon lang tinuturo ko sa kanya. Nag-uusap naman po kami.”
(In training, I just keep telling her: “Margot, smile. Happy, happy. You look at me.” I teach her those things and we keep talking.)
“Si Jen (Nierva) po talaga nagta-translate sa kania,” she continued. “Ako rin, dati, hindi ako marunong mag-English and Tagalog, pero naiintindihan ko. Mahirap lang ‘yung salita. Ganoon din si Margot.”
(It’s Jen who translates for her. Even I didn’t know how to speak English and Filipino before, but I understand the words. Speaking is difficult, and it’s the same case with Margot.)
Their connections clearly paid dividends, as Mutshima led all scorers in her UAAP debut with 23 points off 20 attacks and 3 aces in NU’s five-set upset over Season 81 runner-up UST on Wednesday, March 4.
Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the 6-foot-2 open spiker only knows French and limited English, and thankfully for her, Nierva has been her gateway to the rest of her teammates.
“Ako lagi kasi libero ako so kailangan magkaroon ako ng connection sa spiker ko,” Nierva said. “Very important kasi doon sila magkakaroon ng trust. Once they’re connected to me, alam nilang nasa likod lang nila ako, wala nang doubt eh. Lalabas na ‘yung laro niya.”
(I’m always the libero so I need to have a connection with my spiker. It’s very important because that’s how they build trust. Once they’re connected to me, they know I have their back and their doubts will be gone. Her game will really come out.)
Even in the littlest of ways, Sato and Nierva have done their best to make Mutshima feel at home during her stay in Sampaloc.
And for a rebuilding program like NU, they’ll need all the help they can get. – Rappler.com