I was born in Guinea Bissau, West Africa in a town called Bunkulen. I moved to the United States in 2004 when I was ten to get away from the residual violence from the Civil War. When the war started in 1998 I was four, and my family and I moved several of times to get away from the violence and into safer areas. We moved from our home town of Bunkulen to a town called Mansoua because we thought we would be safer there. In Mansoua we would still hear gunshots every day, but we were not in the middle of the firefight that was going on in Bunkulen. When the fighting slowed down, I was excited to go home. I could not wait to sleep in my own bed and play with my favorite toy, a wooden soccer ball that I would play with before going to sleep. However, when we got back to Bunkulen, I was devastated. Our house was destroyed. I remember looking at the house with tears in my eyes as a part of me had been taken away.
I came to the United States when I was ten years old. The first time I sat next to a white man was on the plane. The whole time I was on the plane I was just trying to figure out how the plane worked and who made it. It just seemed so unreal to me. Although it took me two to three years to become confortable in English, I soon loved my American life. In the U.S. there was less violence, no firefights, less theft, no police beatings, no public humiliations, and teachers would not beat you. But despite all the bad memories from Guinea Bissau, it’s also easy to get nostalgic. I miss the animals that were a part of my life – monkeys, snakes and porcupines. I miss going to the forbidden lake in the jungle with my friends to go “swimming,” which really meant climbing trees, collecting mango’s and running around because none of us could swim and there were alligators in the lake. I even miss collecting wood for the “candero,” an outdoor stove, which at the time I did not like doing because it was a chore. I miss the nights when the neighborhood would gather around a tree and we would all sing and tell stories.
In Guinea Bissau, soccer was our only form of recreation. My friends and I would make soccer balls by stuffing paper and trash in plastic bags and then wrapping plastic bags tight around the ball of trash. We would play with the best ball first, and then when that one was destroyed we would move to the second best ball. Once in California, my step-dad put me on a recreational team, but the coach quickly moved me to a better club. From there, I moved from club to club until a soccer coach recommended me for a tryout with Real Salt Lake – Arizona soccer academy at Grande Sports Academy. The academy is the residential youth academy of Real Salt Lake, a professional team in Major League Soccer. When I found out I made the team there was no question in my mind that I wanted to move to Arizona. I had to sacrifice a lot by leaving my mom, siblings, and friends. However, I was presented with an incredible opportunity to achieve my dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
After high school, I want to go to college to get a degree, and then hopefully play professionally in Major League Soccer. After moving from Africa to the United States, I learned that I have incredible opportunities here in America, both athletically and academically. With my hard work ethic, perseverance, and supportive people guiding me along the way, there is nothing that I cannot accomplish.
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Grande Sports Academy Camp Testimonials
"I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone involved in making my son's recent experience at Grande Sports Camp a great one. He enjoyed everything about his week long stay and is already talking about wanting to return again next year and stay for two weeks. Thank you so much to everyone that made it such a positive and memorable experience. See you next year!"
"Just wanted to let you know Derrik is having an awesome time at camp! He loves everything about it, training, food, hotel, all of it! He takes photos of the food and sends it to me back home and tells me how good it is! Many thanks for a great camp!"
"Jacob had an amazing time at camp. He is already asking about a multi-week camp in the summer as well as the same in December camp next year. You will certainly see us again in the near future. Everything was top notch! Thanks for everything."