Guest opinion: How you can help supply nets and balls to children of Africa
Special to the Daily
When I adopted my two children from Ethiopia at the ages of 5 and 6, I was ready for an adventure. And I was also ready to open my mind to a new culture and different way of life. I adopted Negus and Elilta nearly nine years ago this August. They didn’t know English when they came over, could not read or write. What they could do was play soccer, sing songs in Amharic, laugh and dance.
As time progressed, and they could communicate with me, they began to tell me stories of how they lived in Gambella, Ethiopia. They lived in a one-room hut with a dirt floor and a thatched roof. They did not have running water or electricity and had only one outfit to wear until they outgrew it. They slept on the floor of the hut without pillows, blankets or a mattress. They did not have much to eat, and hunted for their food at times.
One of the stories that stuck with me as they grew older was a story of how they played soccer. Soccer was a sport the boys especially played all the time. Wearing no shoes, they still played throughout the day and into the night. They made balls out of plastic bags and twine and marked the goal posts with sticks or stones. They had no nets so they had to run and find their ball after they scored a goal.
Here, we take for granted the ease of being able to play sports and the basic equipment we use. Our parks have goals and nets that hang freely and we are not fearful of someone stealing them. We play with real balls and increase the size as our children grow. Our shoes can now be beautiful cleats with the socks even attached!
My son, Negus, wanted to solve this problem he remembered in Africa. His goal was to become a professional soccer player and supply nets and balls to children of Africa. He wrote about this often in school papers and his vision did not waiver.
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Negus passed away last April due to epilepsy complications. Two weeks before his death, we were still talking about and planning his dream of supplying nets and balls to Africa.
As we fast forward a year later, the Vail Valley community is coming together to help make Negus’ vision a reality. Vail Valley Soccer Club has partnered with us as we take this concept to the pitch. We will be hosting our 1st Annual Negus Kloehn 3v3 Soccer Tournament on July 17 and 18 for U8 to adult. The proceeds will go to his nonnprofit, Save the Ball — Soccer for Africa, Inc.
I marvel at the things Negus taught me and am so grateful that he expanded my knowledge and that of our community. For more information or to register a team please click here.