Through soccer Somali-American youth connect, give thanks

- Many young Somali-Americans are spending Thanksgiving weekend playing or watching soccer. For the second year, Coach Ahmed Ismail, executive director of the West Bank Athletic Club, has organized the tournament.

“I love seeing a lot youth happy, excited,” said Coach Ahmed. “That’s why I invest all this time, to stay out of trouble, to bring back together.”

Coach Ahmed believes the tournament, consisting of 14 teams — half out of state, is a celebration of the power of sport to help young Somali Americans.

“We are here to to give them a positive,” said Coach Ahmed. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for our youth when it comes to resources.”

Many former players, mentored by Coach Ahmed, were at the tournament, including Mohamed Warsame, a senior at St. Cloud State.

“Some of us don’t have father figures in our lives,” Mohamed told Fox 9. "These guys become our father figures, someone we can talk to about anything, our way of expressing our feelings ... You almost have to prove everybody wrong. Because of what they heard on the news, you always have to reach out and do more, prove yourself that you belong here, and you’re a good person."

Another of Ahmed’s former players, Adbi Warsame, was at the tournament. Abdi was the first Somali-American to become a paramedic in Minnesota.

“These are young guys that are working hard, trying to do the best they can,” Abdi told Fox 9.

In addition to watching or play soccer, many gathered to reunite with friends and family, and give thanks.

“It basically embodies the same values Thanksgiving is all about, which is coming together with your friends and family celebrating. It’s much more than soccer,” Mohamed said.

“It’s kind of like going to your grandparent’s house, or aunt’s house, for Thanksgiving,” said Fardowsa Iman.

The tournament runs through Sunday at 900 6th Avenue SE in Minneapolis, and is open to the public.

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