St. Paul native and longtime international soccer standout Tony Sanneh was scheduled to leave on a flight Tuesday morning to Haiti. His primary mission, once he arrived: to organize and run youth soccer camps and clinics for kids who were displaced by the massive earthquake and who otherwise have nothing to do during their days.
Sanneh, though, is also realistic about the situation into which he is getting.
"I have no idea what to expect. My expertise is in soccer, so that's what I'll be focused on," Sanneh said Monday via phone, about 12 hours before he was slated to leave. "I could be scooping water out of a basement for half the day. I've never gone into a totally distressed area like this."
But he expects to be fulfilled regardless. Sanneh is making the trip via the LA Galaxy Foundation and his own foundation, which he started in 2003. His traveling party will bring soccer equipment as well as more fundamental survival gear such as soap, water and tents.
"The way I understand it, there is a large camp area where a lot of displaced people are living in tents. They might get 1,000 kids every day showing up looking for something to do," Sanneh said. "I will be running soccer camps and clinics. It's not that organized and there is no infrastructure, but hopefully I can bring some structure to the kids."
He expects to be in Haiti for at least a week, and his experience could help shape the next phase of his life. He spent a lot of time volunteering while playing for Major League Soccer's Galaxy last season. Sanneh, 38, realizes his playing days could be winding down. He is putting himself in position to move back to the Twin Cities and wants to commit to growing the Sanneh Foundation.
"I've been working on a very small scale, doing a camp or clinic every year," Sanneh said. "I've kept the foundation alive, but now is the first time when I think this is something I could do full-time and really grow it."