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Dispatches: St. Paul soccer standout Tony Sanneh in Haiti, Part II

Posted by: Michael Rand under Soccer Updated: March 8, 2010 - 3:31 PM

St. Paul native Tony Sanneh, a former U.S. National soccer team member who has played in various professional leagues, left last week for Haiti, where he's running soccer camps and clinics for kids who otherwise have nothing to do in the earthquake-ravaged areas. In addition, he's also helping with a humanitarian effort. We asked Sanneh to provide updates from his trip. Part I ran last week, and here is Part II:

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I woke up this morning at 6:00 am after a huge rain storm last night and immediately thought about all of those displaced kids and hoped they were alright physically and mentally. Fortunately, soccer was still on today and we could keep the momentum going. As I got to practice area, I noticed open fields but the under 17 team and the under 19 team was separated and only one was ready to practice. The coaches told me that they can’t practice at the same time because many of the kids had to share shoes. From our Kick it Back program, we gave out about 30 pairs of cleats, which quickly brought smiles to their faces. We also dressed the U19 team in full L.A. galaxy gear and got the U17 team into Sanneh Soccer t-shirts and shorts. They all received gear with the message that they were dressing like professionals so they should respect the practice time and give full attention and effort. It worked.

Over the last few days there has been a language barrier so luckily today we had two Canadian volunteers on site, Mohammed the politician, and Joe a real estate mogul. They were able to speak with the coach and bring us together better, and immediately I saw the kids were responding to me. Practice went as planned, and my famed header drills got me through the day. The kids really are very special … they worked and got dirty and constantly were laughing, smiling, and cheering. We finished up here at about noon and had more stops to make.

We went back to the office to get boxes of food, soap, deodorant, and wash clothes and made making small kits by putting them in zip locks. Our host family has a food and medicine distribution center we were going to donate to also. We loaded up, packed, unpacked and organized boxes again. This always seems like hardest part of day. Maybe it is because I am hungry, hot and tired from morning practice or maybe it’s because I hate lifting. Either way, I’m not about to complain or stop.

Afterwards we went to lunch at a Lebanese restaurant and when we got there our driver beeped the horn and a man with a gun came out from behind a wall and opened a metal gate for us to enter. You would never know there was a restaurant back there and it seemed like a part of Haiti that was unaffected, until a mother and daughter came over to say “hi” to us and told us they had lost their father to the earthquakes.

In the afternoon we went to see another man, who runs a soccer project in a very, very poor area of Haiti. His scholarships kids to schools and runs the only youth tournaments in all of Haiti. The program stopped because of the earthquakes but he was getting ready to start up again and was asking for our help. We talked about what we do, how we can help, and when we could see his operations. The drive was long, and upon arriving at home and having a late dinner, I showered and got into bed. I was so tired, It seems like I have been here for weeks, but I’m ready to go at it again early tomorrow.

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