Pelican Rapids growing reputation as a “soccer town” will be further cemented this spring. 

Indicators that the community’s fairly young soccer program has come of age? 

• The prospect of bleachers­–and lights­–for the Pelican Rapids soccer complex. 

• Post-COVID revival of the summer soccer league play. 

• The increasingly active Pelican Rapids United Soccer Association. 

• And now, a video documentary production, complete with professional-level visuals and an original soundtrack.

“We are from Pelican…” is the title of the production. 

The release dates of the videos, which will be streamed:

May 7 – episodes 1 and 2

May 14 – episodes 3 and 4

May 21 – episodes 5, 6 and 7

Pelican soccer coach John Peter, who was at the ground level when Pelican launched an entirely local high school varsity soccer program in 2016, is leading the project. 

He follows the highly successful, but pandemic-shortened 2020 boys soccer team. The Pelican squad defeated teams from schools that are nearly five to six times the enrollment of Pelican. 

“We are from Pelican…” became something of a slogan, or “battle cry” for the rambunctious, ethnically diverse soccer squad. 

Perplexed folks who would encounter the youth off the field, would frequently inquire…“Who are those guys??? Where are you guys from?…” 

Answer, as aptly delivered by young Somali student Abdirahman (Macho) Sai, in a video excerpt from the larger project: 

“We’re built different…We’re from Pelican Rapids.” 

Pelican is generally described as the “smallest” Minnesota public school with a full varsity soccer program. (Pelican’s grade 10-12 enrollment this year is about 210. By comparison, grade 10-12 enrollment is 1,216 students at Bemidji—whom Pelican defeated 1-0 in the 2020 playoffs.)

This documentary is familiar territory for Peter. He wrote and directed a feature-length film project on the 2009 Pelican Rapids boys basketball team that won the state title. 

 “When those of us within the team started to look back at the season and think about it as a story to share, we realized there were multiple layers.  This wouldn’t just be a highlight tape just about soccer games, but there was much more here: playing and going to school during the pandemic, what does your community’s identity mean in relation to your own identity, cultural misunderstandings, work ethic and finally mental health,” wrote Peter.  “Each of these issues could not be ignored if we wanted to tell the story of our season as each piece played a vital role in telling the full scale of the story.”  

An important “sub-plot” in the documentary is mental illness, a challenge that Peter himself struggles with. 

Interestingly, 2001 Pelican graduate Peter was contemplating a career in audio-visual and broadcast news—until steering toward education. He is coach and an English as a Second Language instructor for the Pelican schools; and very connected to Pelican’s soccer-playing ethnic communities—primarily Hispanic and Somali. 

Here’s a note from Peter on the project. 

“Soccer season seems like an age ago, but I’m excited to tell you that a major project is nearing its end… During this past soccer season, we had a student camera crew embedded with the team every single day. They captured everything that went on: the highs and lows and several other surprises. In early May, a six-episode documentary called “We Are From Pelican” will be released on YouTube.”

“It will follow the team’s season, dig into Pelican Rapids as a community, get to know many of the players and their families as well as look at life in school during the pandemic.”

More than a “sports highlight” production, the project is about “our amazing town and this team and the opportunity to speak about other important issues.”  

This logo is from a preview excerpt of the documentary “We are from Pelican Rapids,” which follows the entire 2020 Viking boys soccer season. But the emphasis is not entirely on sports, as the community and its diversity is also profiled.
The success of the Pelican Rapids High School soccer team in 2020 was a source of pride in the community, including these fans who gathered outside the downtown Dawo Halal Market, where many from the Somali community gather for tea—and watch soccer on the in-shop television set.