After dropping their first two games of the season, Phoenix Central has won their last 3 games and have a record of 3-2 heading into the second half of the season. The Bobcats have a talented junior class, led in part by linemen Eloi and Cosmos Kwete. The fraternal twins have come a long way in learning the game of football.
Eloi and Cosmos were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but their time in the Central African country was short lived. “Everything was kind of violent. It was a period of war in the Congo. Life was not good, so that was why we fled to Zimbabwe.” said Eloi. The Kwete brothers were just 3 years old when their family moved to a refugee camp in Zimbabwe, with assistance from the International Rescue Committee. IRC is a group who helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and regain control of their future.
Life in the refugee camp was a struggle.
“The conditions were miserable because, they give you a certain amount of food according to a month. If that food ends before the month ends, you have to figure it out on your own.” says Cosmos. Eloi adds, “The living condition in a refugee camp was tough. You can’t compare it to any place in the U.S. Especially schools and the education system. The food and the water. There are lots of stuff if I were to imagine right now, it would not satisfy you. The first couple of years there was no electricity available. There is no guarantee that there is work. It’s something like a part-time job. There is no guarantee that you will have a salary or something like that. You just work here today so you can only feed the family and make the ends meet.” Safety was a concern as well, as there were inherent dangers living in the camp. “It’s close to a park. That’s where there are a bunch of wild animals – rhinoceros, hippos, and elephants, and different animals and sometimes they escape they come to the human zone where people live.” says Cosmos. Eloi adds, “The complex killed an elephant which was coming into the camp.” The family eventually moved and settled in Harhare, the largest and capital city of Zimbabwe.
It was there that Eloi and Cosmos became standout rugby players.
They were selected to play on Zimbabwe’s under 17 national team, but were unable to participate because they did not have the proper paper work. In the spring of 2016 the Kwete family relocated once again. They moved to Phoenix looking for a better life and education. A few months after arriving, the brothers were introduced to the game of football.
“I remember them putting their pants on backwards. I know that happened to one of them. The shoulder pads were reversed. The strings were in the back. Helmets they were good with.” said Central head coach Jon Clanton. Eloi said, “it felt kind of weird the first time (putting on the equipment). I was uncomfortable in those pads and helmet.” That was just the beginning. “I had some type of ideas about American football, but I wasn’t sure about each of them. Like you can hit someone without the ball. Tackling is more violent and rough.” Cosmos said. Eloi adds, “the first time I began playing football I did what the coach told me to do. Don’t be afraid. Just go and lay a hit on someone and that’s exactly what I did.” Coach Clanton had to start with the basics with the Kwete’s. “They knew nothing, but one thing they did they ran to the football. They were chasing receivers, chasing backs, they ran. You can’t coach that. You can’t coach relentlessness. That’s what you want in a football player. They tackled very, very well. They were very aggressive. They work great with their hands. We had to teach them the concept of this is where you line up, here’s a three point stance, here’s a 2 point stance, and they get the whole scheme of a defense.” The twins are now the leading two tacklers on the team, and Eloi’s 80 tackles ranks amongst the most in the state.
As the brothers have become more comfortable on the football field, they are also enjoying some of the more simpler pleasures off of it.
“When I started eating American food I like pizza and McDonald’s. I like that.” says Cosmos. Adds Eloi, “I love mostly Mexican food. I eat tacos and burritos.”
The twins each speak 7 different languages. In the classroom, Eloi has a 3.1 grade point average and wants to become a radiologist. Cosmos carries a 3.5 g.p.a. and would like to become a pilot. The brothers are ranked in rugby for their age group in the United States, but football has now become their passion. The Central Bobcats hope that passion will help them continue their winning ways. And for the Kwete’s, they travelled half way around the world to finally find a place they can call home.