How soccer played a role in creating friendship for two Stewarts Creek players

Mak Binder and Ehkeller have become close friends.

In order to talk to each other, it is easy to see the appreciation and respect the two have for one another.

“He’s a really good friend to me,” said Binder of Ehkeller. “It’s crazy. I never thought I’d meet someone like this to take care of me, and I take care of him too.”

Ehkeller and Binder are not just two soccer players who share a bond based on their experience in the United States. You are arguably the guides for Stewart Creeks.

Binder, a junior striker, leads the team in the ranking. Ehkeller, a junior midfielder, is the team captain.

Their value to the football team is only one thing the two of them have in common.

Newbie finds a friend

The soft spoken Binder came to the United States from Haiti almost four years ago when he was adopted by Smyrnas Dale and Heidi Binder.

After conditions in Haiti worsened after the 2010 earthquake, Binder’s birth parents decided that the best thing to do was to adopt an American family.

The Binder were just that family and joined their family of five. Heidi Binder remembers meeting a 10-year-old Mak when she and Dale went on a mission trip to Haiti as part of Lifepoint Church in 2012.

“When I came home from this trip (in October), I couldn’t lose sight of him,” said Heidi Binder. “(Adoption) wasn’t on our radar. But we felt like God led us to Mak.”

It took more than four years for the process to complete and for Mak to join his new family.

“From the beginning he seemed to be only part of our family,” said Heidi Binder. “Our boys (now 16, 14 and 11) were all under 10 at this point (the trial started), but we’d talked so much about him that it was like he was already part of our family.”

Joining the Binder family and living in the United States was all Mak could have imagined.

“The Binder family is really great,” said Mak. “They give me everything they can give me. I really enjoy playing with my three brothers. I love every single second here.”

One of his first friends was Ehkeller.

“When I first saw him, I knew he was different,” said Ehkeller. “He was calm like me. I could relate to it. I started talking to him and our friendship went from there.”

Long line of soccer players

Ehkeller, the youngest of eight boys, may relate to life in a new country despite having lived in the United States since childhood.

In America it got its one-word name. “In my language (Burmese), that means ‘to love everything,'” he said. There is no common patronymic or matronymic system and therefore there is no surname in Myanmar (the country formerly known as Burma).

Ehkeller’s family became refugees from Myanmar years ago and fled to Thailand to “escape religious persecution”. Not long after the family decided to move to the United States.

“The States have given us a new opportunity,” said Ehkeller, one of five siblings who play football for Stewarts Creek. “We are so grateful for that. Our family had to flee Myanmar to Thailand to go to refugee camps to escape death and the like. We came to America to lead a better life.”

Ehkeller has shared many stories with Mak. It’s part of what helped the two of them build such a close relationship.

“I tell him the stories about us from Thailand and all of my childhood problems and he tells me how he experienced the earthquake and how it affected Haiti,” said Ehkeller.

“That was our bond.”

Reach Cecil Joyce at or 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Cecil_Joyce.