261: Joe Connor Podcast

October 28, 2022

Joe Connor: This is an amazing story of a former pro soccer player that is now using his former skills to organize camps around the world, particularly in Turkey, to help displaced girls via soccer. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq for the persecution of their religion or normal freedoms we take for granted. Through organized soccer camps, Joe has provided structure to give them confidence to do whatever is possible with limited resources.
Listen to “Joe Connor out to change the world through soccer” on Spreaker.

Show Transcript

Mark Pattison 0:11
Hey everybody, it’s Mark Pattison back again with another great episode of Finding Your Summit—all about people overcoming adversity and finding their way. Before we get to today’s amazing guest, I just want to draw attention once again to my website, www.MarkPattisonNFL.com. I’ve got over 265 podcasts, from some pretty epic people doing some really amazing things. That’s number one. So you can find more pods there as well as on Spotify and Apple, another place you might get your podcasts I would love a ratings and review always helps elevate the show and the popularity so we can inspire others, I need to be inspired just like everybody else that is out there. That’s number one. Number two is we continue to raise money for Higher Ground. It’s an organization that’s based out here in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I do reside helps others with empowerment. And that’s what we all need is empowerment. But in this case, many of these people are in the military. And we have a campaign that has been dedicated my daughter called Emilia’s Everest as she battles to get over her battle with epilepsy. And finally, the Searching For The Summit, I’ve talked about this before, this is the NFL 360 that they did on my epic Everest up and down, it was full of challenges. That link is on that website, just land on the homepage, and there’s plenty of buttons that will take you to that NFL 360 film, which we did win an Emmy for Best Picture.

So on that note, let’s jump into today’s guest. His name is Joe Connor. Joe, how you doing?

Collage image with mountainous background displaying Finding Your Summit logo, episode number and photos of both Mark Pattison and Joe ConnorJoe Connor 1:49
Pretty good. Thanks. Nice to be on the show with you, Mark.

Mark Pattison 1:52
Well, it’s nice to talk to another professional athlete that is from actually another sport. I did have another guy Jesse Bradley that that did play soccer as well. He is from the states you are from the UK, I believe somewhere over there. And so we’ll get into that. So tell me about you must have had some some really positive influences. In terms of your upbringing. I read something about your grandfather and your dad and then you ultimately ended up playing on the same professional soccer team based over in the UK. But But what was that like for you growing up with sport in your life?

Joe Connor 2:25
Yes. So I tell people, the number one religion in England is football. You guys call it soccer. So it was it was our religion growing up, we loved it. So you’ve got the massive teams, you know, Manchester United Arsenal’s Liverpool cities, these type type of teams, but every town in England has its own club. And I mean, the fans that people are hardcore followers of this, many of your viewers might have seen the new Wrexham thing. So I played at a similar level to that for a team called Stockport County. And so my granddad played for them. He’s the top goalscorer ever for Stockport County. My dad played a couple of games actually broke his leg after the third game and never played for them again, it was actually tragic, how he had to quit. But my granddad top goalscorer got a pug named after him. And so I remember being a little kid. And walking down the street. This was when you used to go out your shop used to go out your house to get the you went to the butchers for the meat, you went to the Baker’s for the bread and my granddad would still do that. And it say, Oh, come on, let’s go to the shop. And we’d be gone for 30 minutes to an hour because he’d be chatting to everybody in the streets. Because everybody knew him. It was it was a local legend. And so he still has he still got his picture up in certain pubs and places around the town. And so I became famous because I was his, I was his grandson. And I was the third generation of Connor to play for our local professional team. What kind of pressure to that put on you, if any of having you know that legendary guy to follow after and you see this all the time in other sports. We just recently I worked for Sports Illustrated. And we recently did an article about LeBron James and his his desire to one day have both of his sons play in the NBA and once in high school, and the other one is just getting into high school or something. So you know, it’s a it’s a big leap to do that. And it’s a whole lot of pressure. Yeah, I think so I had a lot of cousins. So there was a lot of boy cousins who were all grandchildren of this famous play. And so everybody played football, you know that that’s what the guys did. That’s what we were all aspiring to be. And I think when it was happening to me, I mean that even before I played my first game, word got out that I was going to be starting, you know, the next day and the radio would call me up and asked me questions and this that and the other but I mean, you’ve been an athlete, you’re so focused on performing well and playing your game and doing the best you can do. I don’t think you realize what’s actually going on. When you’re in the moment. It’s kind of when you look back and Oh, wow, that was pretty awesome. So there was a bit a bit of pressure because it meant so much to me. It wasn’t just playing football, I was playing for my hometown, I ended up becoming the club captain, all that kind of thing. And so you’d see, I lived around the people who were fans, you know, they were fans, since they were kids, they went to the games with their dads, their dads went with their dads. And so it really does get passed through the generation. So when things aren’t going well, you feel the pressure, when things are going well, you just kind of enjoy it. And you look forward to the next game. But I think I think I never really took it all in because I was always aspiring to play at a higher level and play better. And so during it, I just kind of went along for the ride, to be honest.

Mark Pattison 5:45
Well, as we get more into this, I there’s a couple things that are popping out to me. Number one, I want to give a shout out to Marco or comedy that put us together. He is a co employee with me at Sports Illustrated. And we’re gonna get into how you guys know each other. And of course, he’s European as well. But I think you know, as I’m thinking about your story about you grew up in this town, and you played in the States and you played in Europe, and you play competitively, you got paid for it, and and you’re part of those different clubs, you know, one of the things that we all get doesn’t matter what sport you’re in? Well, I actually it does, I think because if you’re a tennis player or a golfer, maybe that’s a different animal. But when you’re talking about a team sport, where you’ve got nine to 11, you know, players on one side of the ball, that are coming out to create this experience, you know, there’s teamwork, and there’s empowerment, and there’s getting along and how everybody fits in. And there’s all these elements when you are in rise to that level. And one thing that is so intriguing to me about your story is this whole life after football, you know, football, again, in the terms of the European way that you guys say that, but you’ve just taken it seems like a segment of those skill sets you that you learned through sport that so much define who you are today. And you’ve really applied that to this really amazing work. And I’m trying to really get my arms around it because you’re you’re you’ve pretty much dedicated your life to helping others and seeing others see the light, so to speak, by going into Iran. And I gotta ask you like how all this all played out? I mean, it’s so fascinating to me. So why don’t we kind of dig into kind of his life after football and finding your purpose in life.

Joe Connor 7:30
So pretty much what happened. We were we were in England with with my wife and kids. My wife is American. I met her here whilst I was on a soccer scholarship in the US. And we got married and kind of always said, When I finished my football career, we’ll move back to the US to be with her family. So in the transition of moving back, I mean, I was I was ready to retire, I had a few injuries, I could have got surgery and carried on playing. But I just I was at the point where I was thinking 510 years down the line and I want to be able to play with my kids. When I get a bit older. I’ve seen so many people suffer injuries. And then after, after they finished playing, they put on a lot of weight and they can’t do anything anymore. It’s very difficult. So I was like it’s I’ve had a I’ve had a decent career, and ready to call it a day. And we came back to America, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And then through a friend I heard about this ministry called Elam ministry, I’m friends with the guy who runs it about 16 years ago. He’s an Iranian guy. He’s born in Iran, but ended up being raised in England. And so we love soccer as well. And he was in the US doing some work. And we connected and we just stayed in touch. We both loved sports, we both loved the work that was happening in the Middle East. And when I reached when I was coming back to America, I reached out and said, Look, I’m moving back, I’d love to help out what’s going on. And so I got connected with Elam that way. So pretty much had finished my career, finished about a month or two, maybe three months, and we moved back to America. And within a week, I was on a plane over to Turkey, which is right next to Iran, Afghanistan, all these places in the Middle East. And I was walking around Turkey and going from city to city to see some of the work we do with refugees. And there were 1000s and 1000s of teenage teenagers refugees that just didn’t have anything to do really. And you know, when you get a bunch of teenagers, whether they’re refugees or not, and they’ve got nothing to do, they end up getting into trouble. And so, if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, try being in a country where you don’t speak the language and you don’t know what’s going to happen to you day by day. So I just had a heart for these young people. And I know sports is a great way to give people purpose to give people hope to give people something safe and fun to do. So I said to my friend who was running Elam ministry, David Jenkins, I said look, I think I think we could do a football academy over here. And I think it would really help people. And within I got some friends together from the US who have trained coaches. And within a year, we were training coaches, local coaches, Iranian Afghan coaches, we were training them and they were going out doing the business. And they they’ve done amazing work. So I kind of had an idea and connected a few people, I stay on top of it, make sure it’s running, right. But there’s just amazing people over in the Middle East that giving up their time serving these teenagers, and we’ve had some incredible stories come out of it. So it just continues to grow. And it’s it’s really, really wonderful. What’s happening.

Mark Pattison 10:38
Okay, so let’s, let’s dive down just a little bit. So number one, have you been to Iran?

Joe Connor 10:44
So the organization I work for is a Christian ministry. And if anybody knows anything about the Iranian government, they hate Christian ministries. So we do, we do a handful of things. We help Christians who are persecuted for their faith inside Iran. We train Christian leaders distribute the Bible, and plant house churches. So I’m probably at Elam ministry is known by the government, many of our people inside Iran have been put in prison. And so the idea of sending someone like me who works for Elam ministry into Iran, they’d either reject me from going in, or I’d get in and I wouldn’t get out. So I don’t actually go into Iran. I communicate people communicate with people and speak to them and encourage them and help them in certain ways. And there’s security issues there. Because there’s real people going to prison, there’s real people being beaten. It’s very, very sad, what happens there. And so I can’t go into all the details as to how that happened. But me myself, I’ve never set foot in Iran. But I was speaking to people from inside the country this morning. So So there’s ways that I get around it. But But No, I’ve never been to Iran, myself, I go to the surrounding nations. Yeah. And certainly that makes sense. And one of the reasons why, you know, there’s certain things your brother can say, and he can’t say is because you don’t want to jeopardize somebody else that’s over there right now. totally get it.

Mark Pattison 12:06
Okay. So question then for you is Christianity. Is that banned in the Muslim country of Iran today?

Joe Connor 12:15
So it’s, it’s not a black and white answer. So I know people who have been in prison for their faith inside Iran, Christian faith. So the way the Iranian government work is there is an Armenian Church. So Armenia is a different country, there’s a people group in Iran is an old church, they have their services in the Armenian language. They’re not Muslims are not allowed to go into that church. So if you’re born a Muslim, you can never go into an Armenian Church. So there is a very, very small Armenian Church in Iran. And so the Iranian government pretty much says, look, we’ve got freedom of religion here, these Armenians can practice their faith, which is true. But for a Muslim to convert or to follow Jesus or to become Hindu or the high or whatever religion, it’s called apostasy in that country. So to convert from Islam to anything else, is considered illegal. And so we’ve had many, many of our people have many friends that have been arrested for their faith, but the Iranian government would say, we are arresting them for political propaganda against the state. So they come about it a different way. But for anybody who knows Iran, the government despises the growth of Christianity. And it’s incredible, actually, the house church movement in Christianity in Iran is the fastest growing church in the world. So despite the persecution, and the hardships these people go through Christianity continues to spread rapidly. I mean, we’re talking hundreds of 1000s Millions of people have become Christians in the last 1015 years in Iran. People have been killed for it, many people go to prison, but yet it continues to grow. So people are finding hope and meaning in something other than the Islamic regimes religion.

Mark Pattison 14:07
Why do you think people are willing to risk the possibility of having the the religious, you know, police force, ya know, that are out there prowling around trying to I mean, I just saw yesterday so in so something that was has been broadcast has been pretty public is there was a, there was a gal maybe in South Korea or something that was climbing up this wall. And as part of this competition, she’s going to be in the Olympics. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so the big threat was that because she didn’t climb with a headscarf on which required in Iran. There’s this big scare right now that she might get thrown in jail for just not wearing what they are mandated to wear in that country. So So you’re talking about like for unite to me that would be so trivial. And for country like you’re gonna throw somebody in jail for that I can only imagine what that would be. You know, when you start talking about switching religions, I’m sure 99% of the country is already Muslim.

Joe Connor 15:13
Yeah, so 99.9% I mean, it’s massive you know, almost everybody is born a Muslim. So it’s illegal to be anything else essentially. So this lady for instance, the reason why the Olympic rock climber is so so important in the moment is currently there’s massive protests going on in Iran. Women are protesting because there was a lady killed about a month ago Masha a meanie she was walking in public and a hijab was down and some of her hair was showing. And so the morality police took her into prison betta. And she later died in hospital, which sparked protests and they’ve been going on for about a month now. But night after night, people are going out Is she young man, it’s women is all people really, they’re just sick and tired of the oppression. And so when people are sick and tired of that kind of oppression, it’s been going on for about 40 years since the Islamic Revolution in 79. When they’re sick and tired of that kind of oppression, they attribute that to the government and the government is Islam. So you’ve got to understand when I talk about Islam, I’m talking about Islam in Iran. I’ve got Islamic friends from different countries who are different than the Islam in Iran, so So I don’t want to go around saying all Muslims are the same, because the night is the same. It’s not fair that but the Islamic regime in Iran is very oppressive to women. And they think that they need to keep women in line by keeping them in headscarves and not letting them go out without men and all these kinds of things that other I’ve heard heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story about how women are treated. So what you have on the flip side, if someone reads about the God of Christianity, they read about a God who says, I love all people equally, I offer forgiveness, these people are made in my image, the person of Jesus is incredibly kind to women in the Bible, some of the Christian churches haven’t done well of, of being kind to women in the past. But essentially, Jesus is incredibly kind to women. And so these people in Iran fall in love with this person, Jesus. And I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of people who have been raised in that. And then they find hope and meaning through the person of Jesus, and it completely transforms their life. And so they say, I want everybody to know this, I want everybody to know this hope. I want everybody to know this love. And they go and share it, even though they know the cost. It might have them in prison, it might get them killed. But they continue to do it’s very inspiring.

Mark Pattison 17:44
And can the people of Iran come and go freely through the borders? Or do they have to get some kind of special visa? Yes. And where I’m going with that question is, you know, so so many of these people also in Afghanistan, I mean, we saw this tremendous amount of oppression, it actually was the opposite that we came in. And these women over the last 10 years or so have been able to really experience you know, becoming professors and teachers and going to school, the little kids and all that kind of stuff. And then as soon as we we exited from that country a year ago, you know, it just kind of went back to is the way it wasn’t 1700, you know, and so it’s been really challenging. So going back, is it can people come and go like if you didn’t like this anymore? Can you just bail and go to Turkey?

Joe Connor 18:31
Yeah, yeah. So So typically what happens? Actually, in the last couple of years, I’ve been highly involved with Afghans as well. So I’m not an expert, but I’m learning a lot about that. Because they’re both Persian people, Iranians, Afghans, they’re Persian. They speak Farsi or a dialect of it. So I’m, I’m connected with that. But yeah, people can come and go freely from Iran under certain under certain circumstances. So for instance, you can travel to Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, the surrounding nations, they go on vacations to Turkey, so actually, a lot of Iranian people will go on vacation to Turkey, because in Turkey, you can get Western Gods the women can go to concerts, they can walk around without their headscarf, so on even though Turkey is in Islamic countries a lot freer. So again, that’s why I say that Islam in Iran, so I can go to Turkey, which is an Islamic country, the people are incredibly friendly. Some people will wear a headscarf, some people won’t. So a lot of Iranians will go on vacation. Now where it gets tricky, is if you get in trouble with the government, whether it’s for politics, religion, whatever it may be, they can take away your passport, they can do things like that. So it stops you from traveling. Pretty much the way it works. A general rule of thumb is that Iranians can travel for 90 days without a visa and go back into the country. If they extend that then they’ll get in trouble going back into the country. So yeah, Iranians can travel it’s not like North Korea. You know, North Korea is kind of like a Next Level, Iran is in this place where it wants to be a, you know, an extreme Islamic country, but at the same time it wants to trade it wants to have relationships with other countries. So it’s kind of trying to balance that, how do we, you know, keep good relations with other country but still keep our people are under control. And in the last 1015 years because of the internet, and people can see the outside world, they’ve just gone I’m sick and tired of this, people are living free in all these other countries. And we still have to wear a headscarf, you know, girls still get married off at 14, they’re the property of a man, they just, they don’t want to do it anymore.

Mark Pattison 20:37
Understandable. So you’re sitting back right now you’re in Atlanta, I believe, correct? Yeah. So how do you make contact with, you know, somebody who wants to kind of get out of this hole? And and explore their mind and and look at other religions? Like Christianity? How did you get connected with those people that you’re sitting on a zoom with them? I mean, how does that all work?

Joe Connor 21:06
Yeah, so most, almost all of what we do with Elam is train and help other Iranians and Afghans that want to do this. So you know, you’ve got that whole idea of the, the stereotypical white Westerner that goes on missions and tries to get everybody to be like us? Well, we’re saying no, these are Iranian people, if they want to do it, they’re best learning from other Iranian people, essentially. So pretty much what we do is Iranian men and women who have encountered Jesus or they’ve converted to Christianity, and we’re not trying to convert people, we just want to give people the opportunity to hear. I mean, there’s a big difference people, we believe everybody has the right to hear the story of Christianity, and it’s their choice, whether they want it or not. And so we train Iranian and Afghan people, whether it’s online, whether it’s in person outside the country, and they then go back inside and do the work. Also, people have access to the internet in Iran, it does get shut down from time to time when when the when the protests get really intense, they’ll shut the internet down. But for the most part, you can communicate with people in Iran, I mean, chat rooms, Zoom calls, whatever method you can speak to people inside Iran. It’s all done secretly, when you talk about when Jesus or Christianity or God that is not Allah comes into it, there’s government officials watching it and keeping an eye on it. So many times I’ll speak with people, I’ll be in a chat, and they won’t put their screen on. But but most of the work, I see the best thing I can do, you know, I could go to that part of the world and do something good. Or I could train 10, Iranians and Afghans to teach them how to love kids on a soccer field and help them and encourage them. And they’ll be able to do way more work than I ever could. So we’re trying to empower those people who want the help. And so that’s how we go about it. So I in regards to the soccer ministry, I go with a couple of friends and we invest in train Iranian and Afghan cultures. That’s what we do. There. When you see when you go and you train. Are you talking about going to Turkey? Yeah, yeah. So So again, in Turkey and Greece, there’s tons and tons of refugees. I mean, we’re talking millions. It’s insane. Not just Iran and Afghan other places. But we focus on Farsi speakers, because that’s what our ministry is, is towards and so we go there we train, we do training events. So practical. How do you how do you put on a good soccer practice? How do you help kids and then, you know, we have to teach them what what to do with these kids. I mean, some of the stories that in in Greece, for instance, when I first went to Greece, that I found out there were 1000s of teenagers there literally 1000s of teenagers in Athens that got to Athens, without any family or friends with no papers without anything. And they’re literally in Athens by themselves with nobody. So the Greek authorities and even the Turkish authorities, they do a really good job of trying to help these refugees, but there’s only so much they can do. So when they hear about other Iranian and Afghan people that want to come and do a soccer practice with them and help them help them out. They’re like, Please take these kids, they need something to do. So that really blew my mind away. So some of them come as families, and they’re all there together. And others just show up by themselves and they’ve got nothing.

So we’re just trying to give them a safe place to play. We want coaches who want to serve and love them and help them in any way they can. And that’s what we do. And sport is a great way to do that.

Mark Pattison 24:41
What’s been the most heartbreaking story that you know of it sounds like you’ve encountered a bunch of them, but at the same time going back to the name of the show, overcoming adversity and finding your way Yeah, but what is an example of that? Were you able to go in some kid was completely lost. You train them he did this and he did that and somehow and other than you urged out of this mess.

Joe Connor 25:01
Yeah. So one of the things I really, really love about my work is that I work in some really sad places. There’s incredibly sad stories. But again, there’s so many people finding hope. So I want to share it, I’ll change this person’s name. But he’s a teenage boy called Hamid. All right, we’ll call him Hamid. And when the US pulled out of Afghanistan, the other year, Hamad watched both of his parents killed, like he saw them killed, the Taliban came in. I mean, some of those people are very evil people. Anyway, they came in, they killed hundreds parents, and you watch them die. He’s a teenage boy. So he’s got no family. He’s got nothing to do. He knows he’s got an uncle in a city in Turkey. So he leaves by himself. He’s got no papers, he’s got no documents, and he travels from Afghanistan to Turkey. So that’s a long trip, he’s got to actually go through Iran to get there. Anyway, he ends up, you know, after traveling for quite some time in this place with his uncle, but they’re not super close families, just the only relative he’s got. So anyway, after a period of time being in this particular city in Turkey, he comes across some other Afghan boys who say there’s this football academy, come and play football with us. And so he’s like, alright, I like football. I come and play. So he comes and he’s playing football week after week. And he’s kind of he doesn’t talk a lot. He’s obviously been through a lot of trauma. But the coaches, they’re trying to build a friendship with him anyway. Hamad finds out that the football we do it through the local church, just because there’s lots of support and partnership, there really helps. And when you’re dealing with a lot of teenagers, you need lots of support anyway. So the coaches from the local church, he tells how made and how it goes, I want nothing to do with you. I’m a Muslim, I’m Afghan we don’t have anything to do with Christianity. But he keeps coming back playing football week after week after week after week. And he builds a friendship with the coach. And so he starts to trust and build this relationship with the coach. Anyway, this was in the summer he came, came to a church event at a great time. And he actually found hope in in Christianity. And one thing he said at the end of the day, he was very scared to open up about his faith because sometimes if you from Muslim start to follow Jesus, you can get in serious trouble with friends and families. Anyway, at the end of the day, he just had this emotional outburst in front of you know, 5060 of his peers. And he said, When I came here, I had no family. I had no father, I had nothing. In this Academy, I found a family, I found that I have a father in heaven who loves me, and I know I’ll never be alone again. And so this is an Afghan boy that had nothing lost everything. And through this football academy, he found hope and he found a family and he found faith. And and I know the people who are working with with Hamid week after week after week. Another example I want to give you because it’s it’s it’s more than just trying to get people to follow Jesus like we want to, we want to spread love and hope to everybody. I know the city in Turkey was full of a lot of Islamic girls, teenagers, so they would still play the game in their hijab and things like that. And these coaches would just go week after week, love on them play soccer with them. They’re all Islamic girls. And, and one one week, the coach said, All right, girls, we need to give this academy a name. So we’ve actually called it the rock Academy. That’s what the coaches over there wanted to call it. But this time, the coach was asking these Afghan girls who were Afghan and Iranian, mostly Afghan, what should we call this academy and the girls went away and they talked a little bit, and they came back and they said, Coach, we should call this the Academy of love. And as that, that just that got me that because I’m like if that’s what we do, if we fill these teenagers with feeling loved when they come then to practice and good with that, that that’s that’s what we want. And so I hear stories like this all the time. We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of teenagers and kids coming out every week. All over the Middle East. The coaches are doing great work. But it has its struggles it has his hardships and there’s some very sad stories but in the midst of all that there’s hope and those people overcome and so it’s wonderful.

Mark Pattison 29:33
Yeah, no, I understand that in you know, I think for anybody that’s listening to this pod right now, a lot of times we get hung up on our own issues or problems or relationships. Something didn’t go quite well right you know, work something happened at work, maybe you got laid off or something negative has happened in your life and this is one of the reasons why I continue to do these podcasts is you know, I get inspiration on hearing these types of stories you know, where there is extreme hardship. And then through an organization like yours who has stepped up and you’re doing your best to kind of, you know, put all this stuff together, and through sport, which of course, I’d love to, but in through sport, you’re creating this organization, and it’s much more than the sport, it’s become something much larger, it’s become something that has given people a place of gathering a place of being in feeling supported, of love of all those different things that, you know, that person then can go on to hopefully become the best version of themselves. And it doesn’t always work out like that. But at least I know, like, when I’m starting to feel sorry for myself just a little bit, I can take a timeout. And I can think back like a conversation that we you and I are having right now. And go, you know, it maybe ain’t that bad. Like, maybe it’s the bad day for me. But relative to this, this little girl, this 14 year old girl in Turkey who’s had to flee Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Iran or something like that, in my life is pretty good.

Joe Connor 30:58
Yeah, it’s a, an interesting place to be. And so I live in a nice house in America, nice neighborhood. There’s some very generous people in the US that help us do what we do. So you know, one minute, I’m mixing with people who are very generous and kind and help us out to do what we do financially. And the next minute, I’m sitting with people who literally have nothing, so I kind of live in this space. And one, it makes me incredibly grateful for what I do have, even though everybody has hardships of their own, right, we all have hardships, but it helps me to focus on the great things that have the things that I can be grateful for. But number two, it makes me want to help more, because we do have the means to help, you know, in whatever way that is, whether it’s someone on the other side of the world, or it’s someone that’s having a hard time in your neighborhood, and listen, they don’t have to be refugees and poor to be having a hard time, you know, as well as I do. There’s rich people that are lonely, and all that kind of stuff. So it makes me want to do something to just make the world a better place. Another story I want to give you is really wonderful. One of the reasons why we really push this soccer academy in the first place is because the local Turkish teams weren’t allowed to have any refugees play for them, because they needed to have certain registrations and all this kind of stuff. And so none of the refugees could play soccer, so they didn’t have a place you could go. Anyway, over the last couple of years. So many kids have come through our academy, we’ve actually had seven, seven teenagers this year go to professional academies in Turkey. So these kids that had nothing. Now they’ve got their papers, they’ve got housing, they’ve got food, they’re going to school, because they had a talent, and they had a gift at soccer. And so they’ve been using, you know, I don’t it’ll still be a miracle for one of them to go on and play professionally. Because we all know it. Yeah, I mean, you know, going from high school to college, and then college to pro, I mean, it’s just such a big jump. But right now they’ve got an opportunity that they would have never had without this sport. And so we celebrate those things. And it gives hope to the other refugees, you know, there is a lot, you know, we can do something we can achieve something. So there’s a lot of great things happen. And yeah,

Mark Pattison 33:09
well, where you’re doing is you’re showing them a path, right. And again, we’re just like you and I, we both, you know, got to that 1% level of playing professionally, but whether you’re at high school or grade school or college or beyond, you know, at some point in time, it all ends anyhow. But if you can have a path of encouragement and positivity, you know, and you walk towards the light, and you can get yourself pulled into that. I mean, it can make a big difference. I think the website where people can find out more about this is elam.com?

Joe Connor 33:41
Yeah, there’s elam.com, which is great. It’s got information on that, again, some of its limited because of the nature of the work that we do inside Iran. But yeah, you can find out about that. Also, if you’re interested in life changing stories, we have a podcast called Jesus speaks Farsi, for instance, the first conversation I have on there is with a guy who spent five years in prison for his faith. And he talks about what those five years were like, is very eye opening. So there’s many stories like that we’ve got, you know, episodes with women and they tell about the hardships and it’s very interesting. Jesus speaks Farsi or elam.com. Both both great resources for people to find out more

Mark Pattison 34:25
love that love that man, you’re doing great work. I’m so inspired by what you’re doing and how you’ve, you’ve taken sport and kind of all about you and turn that into how can I help others and that’s really inspiring to all things. So people tune into this podcast. Hope you’re gonna listen to this one and also check out the podcast so it’s, I’m sure it’s gonna be great. I’m gonna do that when I get done.

Joe Connor 34:46
Joe, thank you so much for coming on the pod and in sharing your experience at Cisco. I’m always blown away by what other people are doing and that’s one of the benefits that finding your Summit. I’ve been doing this down three years. I keep it just keep redefining

Mark Pattison 35:00
What I thought, you know, couldn’t get any better in terms of listening to a conversation than then the last one. I had that hear another one and I’m like, wow, that so it’s been a huge blessing for me. So thank you so much for that.

Joe Connor 35:12
Thanks so much, Mark. It’s been fun.

Mark Pattison 35:15
All right there he is the one the only Joe Connor. Thank you. Thanks.


Important Links

Joe Connor: Elam.com

Mark Pattison YouTube Channel


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