MEDFORD (CBS) – Thanksgiving football games are a high school tradition.
And this Thanksgiving a new tradition takes form.
St. Clement High School in Medford is fielding an international team, with a group of students from China in the lineup who never, ever played football before this year.
They’re part of the school’s international program, which has turned the football field into a cross-cultural experience.
We met them on a rainy and muddy afternoon as the St. Clement team got ready for the big game.
Nothing appears unusual at practice, but the lineup tells the story.
“We have 5 Chinese exchange students,” says Head Coach Colin Walsh.
Each of the five is a first-timer at the sport.
“I know nothing about football when I come to America,” exchange student Brian Cui said.
But they’re learning fast.
“I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage for these young men to come out and play with some boys that are twice the size as them, having come from a country where football is non-existent,” Coach Walsh said. “They’ve been great. They’ve adapted well to the school, they’ve made some great friends, and adapted to the culture and it’s been a fantastic experience for everybody.”
Understanding the language is sometimes a problem, so one of the students acts as a translator, calling the plays.
“We just learn some new words and the American culture. And they also learn something about China,” Cui said.
And that’s exactly the point.
“It’s a great experience to have them here because we learn to bond with different people,” team co-captain John Posado said.
“It’s great. They came here from far away; real different cultural stuff. We’re different kids but we get along and stuff like that. It’s great to play football with them,” co-captain Jamey Thompson added.
The Chinese students will spend the academic year at the small high school.
“On our team, whether you’re Brazilian, Irish, Italian or Chinese, everybody gets along. It’s been a true experience to have these young guys here with us,” Coach Walsh said.
And on Thanksgiving, the entire team was a part of this American experience, winning over St. Joseph’s Prep, 27-8.