05/22/12 — Three UNC friends kick soccer balls across Goldsboro

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Three UNC friends kick soccer balls across Goldsboro

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 22, 2012 1:46 PM

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From left, Dylan Simel, Sasha Seymore and Ahmad Saad dribble soccer balls through downtown Goldsboro. The three UNC-Chapel Hill students are traveling across the state.

The drag of three soccer balls on pavement echoed once more across the early morning stillness today near Elroy.

It's been the same noise each morning for the past 18 days for the three soccer enthusiasts behind those balls as they make their way across North Carolina from Asheville to Morehead City in an effort to raise funds and awareness for organizations that use soccer -- the world's sport -- to unite children across religious and political barriers.

The three traveled 22.6 miles in about nine hours Monday, during a leg of their journey that took them from Princeton down Highway 70 and through downtown Goldsboro.

Dylan Simel, 18, and Sasha Seymore, 19, both of New Bern, and Ahmad Saad, 20, of Cary, said they were struck by the idea while discussing their favorite sport at a dining hall at UNC-Chapel Hill where the three are all sophomores.

The trio practice three different religions and said it occurred to them that soccer could be viewed as the world's language and, if used properly could unite people where other forms of communication and diplomacy cannot.

"We thought 'How can we communicate this and show the world?'" Simel said.

The idea began with dribbling across the United States, which was quickly winnowed down to North Carolina, they say, as common sense took hold. Now they are almost to the coast, where they will end their trip.

The dribblers have raised more than $5,000 through donations and T-shirt sales during their more than 350-mile trip. The Maccabim Association and The Peres Center for Peace, both based in Israel, and Soccer for Peace in the United States will benefit from the undergraduates' hike as they further their programs which seek to unite Jews, Muslims and Christians on the pitch.

The three said they have benefited from the kindness of strangers, relatives and friends along the way.

"We haven't paid for a hotel, yet," Simel said.

One woman in Nebo brought them into her church for a post-service supper while friends and family members have offered meals, lodging and snacks along the way.

The trip has not been without snags, as one soccer ball was lost down a hill in the mountains on the first day and Simel's camera was nearly stolen in a bizarre highway incident, but each evening the three reflect on their goals and accomplishments to stay focused by making videos and blog posts to chronicle their progress.

To read the blog, watch the videos or learn more about donating, visit their website at kickingacrosscarolina.com.