MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of soccer teams are in Blaine this weekend for what’s called the “largest youth sports event in the Western Hemisphere.” One team, however, overcame more than most of us could imagine for a chance to compete.
The Schwan’s USA cup is a summer tradition in its 29th year. Teams from around the world compete on 48 fields.
Tony Sanneh, a retired soccer pro from Minnesota, was a big part of getting the team from Haiti to Schwan’s USA Cup.
“I would say they’re all more like my little brothers,” Sanneh said.
He took his first trip to the Haiti after the earthquake and quickly realized he needed to do more to make a real change.
A quarter of a million people live within three square miles in Cite Soleil — sleeping in shacks and on the streets. Soccer offers some kind of escape.
That’s where the Sanneh Foundation’s Haitian Initiative comes in. As part of the foundation, kids not only learn soccer, but go to school and get the only meal they’ll likely have all day.
Kenlove Sonlon is one of a hundred young teenagers that make up the Haitian Initiative. Through an interpreter, he told us how much the program means to him.
“Soccer is something he loves a lot. He’s been playing it since he was little, so he’s hoping that’s his gateway to life,” Sonlon said.
Ricardo Balmir is a coach and with the program called Haitian Initiative.
“This foundation is really great. It’s one of the best opportunities for the kids,” Balmir said.
Eighteen kids were able to make the trip to compete in Blaine. It’s a journey that has changed a professional athlete.
“I got to thank these kids because they’re making me go to sleep with a smile on my face,” Sanneh said.
For the players, it’s been an answered prayer.
“He’s very happy for what Tony is doing. He is praising the lord for him,” Sonlon said.
The kids will be in the Twin Cities for a total of three weeks. They have a trip to Valley Fair planned, a camp out at Como Zoo and a road trip to Kansas City. If you’d like to help the foundation, click here.