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Local soccer coach devotes life to giving back to youth players

Many of the jerseys and club fees come out of the now 28-year-old’s pocket, and he does it all for his high school players he wants to see succeed.
Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “My family when we came here, we did not have a car, so it was tough to get a ride every practice and every game,” said Christian Bitangalo. “I decided not to play.”

Rockford panthers soccer coach Bitangalo immigrated here from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009 to escape civil war. He grew up playing soccer with his brothers but quickly realized club soccer is expensive in the states, so he had the idea of starting his own team when he was a senior in college.

“It was tough,” Bitangalo said. “The first time for open tryout, I only had like 13 players show up.”

For the second tryout, he had more than 25 kids show up.

“It takes time,” he said. “Some people, they do it, and when they see it’s not working, they quit it. That’s not the right way to be successful, so you have to keep working hard and try, try, try.”

Bitangalo studied at the University of St. Francis in Joliet and would make the one hour 45 minute commute to Rockford twice a week to lead practice.

“Many coaches get paid for this position,” said Rockford Football Club president and mentor Samir Romero. “He’s not getting paid, so you know if you’re doing this out of the kindness of your heart to help kids that are not, economically speaking well off, you can’t just stop and not appreciate that.”

Many of the jerseys and club fees come out of the now 28-year-old’s pocket, and he does it all for his high school players he wants to see succeed.

“Christian, he’s cool, man,” said Rockford panthers midfielder Abedi Bisoga. “He’s a good friend and coach at the same time. He gives me advice, and he’s been a good mentor to me since I met him.”

“He’s going to definitely be there for me in the future and never just give up when something goes bad in life,” said Jackson Martindale, a Rockford panthers center back.

“My goal is to stay here in Rockford,” Bitangalo said. “I love Rockford so much.”

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