Most college freshmen are getting their first taste of what it’s like being away from their parents. Michigan State men’s soccer forward Farai Mutatu is more than familiar with the feeling.
“The last time I saw them was 2014,” said Mutatu, who is in his first season with the Spartans.
The freshman forward moved from Zimbabwe to the Lansing suburb of Haslett with his parents and three siblings. However, due to a visa issue, his parents were forced to leave the United States four years ago and return to Zimbabwe, leaving him and his siblings behind.
“It’s not easy,” Mutatu said. “Obviously I would love them to see my games and to watch me play, but I know that they are supporting me.”
Mutatu has not seen his parents since he was in the eighth grade, and was forced to go through high school without their guidance.
“Farai is a pretty mature kid,” coach Damon Rensing said. “I think, through that adversity that he’s been through, he’s grown up maybe a little quicker than some other kids that have come into this environment.”
After his parents departure, Mutatu quickly rose up the soccer recruiting national rankings, becoming the 141st ranked high school player in the 2018 recruiting class according to College Soccer News, and committed to Michigan State in the summer of 2017.
The freshman forward has started in two of the Spartans’ six games thus far, and scored the team’s first goal of the season against South Florida on Aug. 24.
With the separation between him and his parents, Mutatu was in need of a strong role model.
In came his oldest brother, Trinity.
“He became like a father to me,” Mutatu said. “He was there for me my first day of high school and he just drove me to all my games when they (his parents) couldn’t do that.”
Trinity took on a father figure role in the Mutatu family, and has been one of the freshman’s biggest inspirations over the course of the past four years.
“Seeing how he has handled everything and how he has grown, I kind of look up to that and that’s helped me,” Mutatu said.
Mutatu said he maintains a close relationship with all of his siblings.
“We’re a tight unit, and so we always keep each other accountable and help each other when times are tough,” said Mutatu.
Mutatu still has regular contact with his parents, and often communicates with them through the popular messenger app, WhatsApp.
“We don’t get to call as much, but we are definitely able to text each other and see what’s going on, if they’re doing well and how I’m doing,” Mutatu said.
In a situation that would likely be challenging for most people, Mutatu continues to draw strength from a number of different areas - Most notably, his religion.
“Honestly, I would say it’s my faith,” Mutatu said. “My church has helped me a lot in terms of finding peace in not just soccer, not just other things, but just finding peace in Jesus, honestly, and that’s helped me.”
Between his family, friends and teammates, Mutatu has quite a strong support system.
“I think the best thing you do is be around people that support you and care about you,” Rensing said. “He’s one of our family now, so we’re going to support and be there for him along with several people in the community and families that have already done that.”
Despite tough circumstances, Mutatu is fond of his time at MSU thus far.
“I love this team,” Mutatu said. “It’s a great team, with great guys and players, so I’ve enjoyed it.”
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