Mayo's Chitulangoma makes U.S. para national team, headed to World Cup
Chileshe Chitulangoma, a Rochester Mayo senior, will be playing in the IFCPF World Cup beginning May 1 in Salou, Spain.
The dream that Chileshe "Chile" Chitulangoma began to foster four months ago is no longer a dream.
It’s going to seem even more real today, when the Rochester Mayo senior boards a plane for Spain. He’ll be one of 14 United States men’s soccer players bound for Salou, site of the May 1-16 International Federation of CP Football World Cup.
Chitulangoma, who has cerebral palsy, was notified two weeks ago that he’d made the U.S. Men’s Para National Team. But the official announcement didn’t come until Monday.
“I’m just really excited,” Chitulangoma said. “A year ago, I never would have thought I’d be playing in a World Cup of any sort. Now to have that opportunity, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
Chitulangoma has been playing soccer since hew as in the third grade. That’s been despite his cerebral palsy, which has left him with a slightly crooked left arm and weakness on the left side of his body. Still, Chitulangoma has achieved in soccer at every grade level, including being a strong contributor on a Mayo High School varsity team that reached the Class AA state tournament this past fall.
After researching the possibility of trying out for the U.S. Men’s Para National Team, Chitulangoma made it happen. There was a week-long team camp in Florida in mid-January, a trip to England to play exhibition matches with the U.S. team in March, and finally another week-long team camp in California after that.
By then, those assigning spots on the U.S. Para National Team had seen enough from Chitulangoma. They made him a team member.
Chitulangoma’s hunch was that this would be the case. He knew the U.S. coaches liked both his play and his enthusiasm.
“It was a hard thing to predict, but I was feeling optimistic,” said Chitulangoma, who will be a holding midfielder for the U.S. team. “I felt like I’d done what they needed me to do at the camps, that I’d shown the coaches that they could play me. And in California, I learned a lot more about the tactical parts of the game, which I needed.”
Now that Chitulangoma is officially on the roster, he’s doing some new goal setting. His desire is that his U.S. team make history and finish higher than its previous best, sixth place.
“The feeling at camp from everyone was that we have an opportunity to make history,” Chitulangoma said. “Now, our goal is to win it.”