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Tanzania to Texas: Bernard Kamungo's journey from a refugee camp to the MLS

Bernard Kamungo moved to the U.S. as a teenage refugee with little to no possessions. His passion for soccer sparked a Hollywood-esque journey to the MLS.

FRISCO, Texas — Former North Texas SC midfielder Bernard Kamungo got the callup to FC Dallas' senior team, and his journey makes for a Hollywood-esque movie script.

Kamungo, 20, was born in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, where he did not even learn to play soccer with a ball. Instead, Kamungo said he and his friends would make their own ball with bags, or anything that could be made to look like a ball. 

Soccer was never a thought as an avenue to make a living ... he was just focused on living. 

“All I was trying to do was just to survive,” he said. “Playing soccer was just for fun.”

Kamungo's life first changed when he and his family emigrated to Abilene, Texas, with the help of the International Rescue Committee. At 14 years old, he moved to the Lone Star State with little to no possessions, but the new life and opportunity in America was more than enough. 

“It was amazing for me because right when we got to Abilene, my family could actually get something to feed us. And that was all I was looking for," Kamungo said. "Back in Tanzania, it was kind of hard for your parents to find something to feed you. Sometimes you just eat once a day and that was it. But when we got to Abilene, I started eating like normal, now I could eat three or four times a day, whatever I wanted. It got better right away.”

One of the few possessions Kamungo brought with him to the United States was his love for soccer. He played for his Abilene middle school and high school, and the Tanzanian refugee's skillset shone in West Texas.

But Kamungo still played for his love of the game and never considered professional soccer. Those in his closest circles, however, saw his potential. 

In January 2021, Kamungo's brother, Imani, found a link for North Texas SC’s annual open tryouts and signed up for his younger brother for $100. Bernard Kamungo earned a contract with North Texas SC and was subbed into his first professional soccer match nearly two months later. 

And the "feel-good sports movie" script gets even better. Minutes into his first appearance, Kamungo scored his first professional goal. 

“That goal made me cry,” Kamungo said. “I cried but I don't think anybody noticed because I was sweating. Scoring that goal meant a lot to show me how good I am and how far I can go with my talent. From that moment, I've seen myself as a professional.”

Now, only 20 months removed from playing high school soccer, Kamungo has his opportunity to continue the script for his movie-like journey in the MLS.

The story is still being written, and now it's time for the next chapter: "Dallas 'Til I Die."

“How is this possible? Every single time I ask myself. I would sit at home and in my head I'm like, ‘How is this possible? How did this just happen so quick?’ This is just unbelievable for me," Kamungo said. "I never saw myself growing this quick to this level. And then especially for FC Dallas to recognize me and take my game and teach me more. It just It means a lot to me, really.”

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