PALERMO, Italy — Soccer gave Mewal Tesfai Yosief hope in an Orwellian nation, a job in a country of forced military conscription and, possibly, freedom at last.

After scoring two goals for Eritrea’s national under-20 soccer team during a tournament in Uganda late last month, Mewal defected with three teammates. But after applying for asylum they are in hiding in Uganda, fearful that authorities from home are looking for them.

“The only way for you to survive is by getting out (of Eritrea) and we all know this,” Mewal told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this week. “I had to take this…



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