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From Cameroon to Seattle: One Man’s Harrowing Struggle to Be Free

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Apr 8, 2011

Gaston Dissake has never known life without soccer.

For as long as he can remember, the soccer field is where the 29-year-old found freedom. This freedom, however, stopped whenever he left the field in his native Cameroon. After years of police beatings, attacks from former teammates and threats on his life, Gaston fled his African homeland and sought asylum in the United States. He eventually made his way to Seattle.

Gaston's story is one of a man who risked everything so he could be free to be himself. He is ready to embrace a gay community about which he only read or saw on television. Above all, however, Gaston desperately wants to return to the game he loves so much.

From Cameroon With Love

Association soccer dominates Cameroon's male culture. Amateur clubs abound, organized along ethnic lines or under corporate sponsors. The Cameroon national football team has been one of the most successful in the world since its strong showing in the 1990 World Cup. Within that world, Gaston Dissake was a star.

Gaston and I talked over coffee at a Capitol Hill café on a rainy afternoon. He is polite and soft-spoken, and-despite his limited knowledge of the English language-communicates well. He has a great smile and his face lights up when he talks about his favorite sport.

"I was a well-known soccer player and coach in my country," he told EDGE. "I've played many other sports; tennis, basketball, but soccer has always been my life."

Gaston tells me that he became a free agent after many years of professional play and minor-league coaching. He traveled throughout the African continent, Eastern Europe and Asia to play for teams that needed a player for tournaments.

Next: Breaking Out--and Breaking Through


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