Furtuna Velaj’s road from Kosovo to Quinnipiac – ESPN.

As a young girl, Furtuna Valej saw Serbian tanks outside her bedroom window. It did one afternoon in 1998 when 7-year-old Furtuna Velaj looked out the window of her family’s home in Kosovo and saw the gun barrel of a Serbian tank staring back.

Velaj didn’t have time to pack any reminders of home as she and her family fled that day and traveled to the United States in search of sanctuary and opportunity. The photos stayed behind, but she carried with her a passion for soccer that she discovered in open spaces that offered the opportunity to put foot to ball in the village of Gllogjan.

That link to the past presented the path to a future she hopes to help shape in her adopted country.

Sports won’t cure the world’s ills, nor do the games played merit the life-and-death tenor sometimes ascribed to them. Velaj knows firsthand the difference between conflict and competition. She knows that white chalk can’t solve border disputes in the real world and battles don’t end with the sound of a whistle and a line of handshakes after 90 minutes. Soccer is nonetheless providing a college education that her family could not otherwise afford. And when she steps off the field for the final time, be it at Quinnipiac University or at a professional level, she will leave with a college degree in political science, with which she hopes to pursue a career in international relations and conflict resolution.

“She has things in perspective that very few college athletes do that are big-time players,” Quinnipiac coach Dave Clarke said. “She knows poverty. She knows genocide. She knows atrocities. She knows what it’s like to have to leave home and come to a different country with nothing.

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