While in Haiti, six members of Minnesota United’s supporters group, the Dark Clouds, will be taking part in the international exchange of both coaches and players that Tony Sanneh has established as part of his foundation’s State Department-supported Haitian Initiative. Haitian coaches have already journeyed to Minnesota to take part in coaching clinics through the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association. Now, with the Sanneh Foundation’s assistance, even more coaches from across Haiti will gain training at the camp and bring it back to their communities.
With as many as 400 participants in the camp, the Dark Clouds volunteers will be needed to help run the soccer camps, lend a hand in preparing onsite meals, and maybe even help teach a little English in the classes taught onsite.
The Haitian Initiative accounts for only about $200,000 in the Sanneh Foundation’s $3.5 million budget, but the work is immense, with seven trips planned to Cité Soleil this year alone. For Sanneh, it started at the tail end of his playing career.
“I visited Haiti to do relief work after the earthquake when I was with the Galaxy and you never want to walk away. After an hour flight from Miami you can be in an entirely different world.”
A native of St. Paul, Tony Sanneh made a name for himself over a 15-year career ranging from the Minnesota Thunder and Major League Soccer domestically to a long stint in the German Bundesliga and 43 appearances for the US men’s national team. Since moving back to St. Paul full time in 2009, Sanneh has made a name for himself thanks to tireless work both in Minnesota and abroad.
As a long time member of the Dark Clouds, Rich Harrison says the Sanneh Foundation has always been a natural fit for their Silver Linings service arm.
“Silver Linings is really about providing an opportunity for people to get together outside of soccer to get to know one another at a different level and also to contribute to the community. So the Sanneh Foundation naturally came to the top.”
Ultimately, Sanneh hopes interest and passion for the sport can lead to an even deeper impact.
“I’ve always said my organization’s not about soccer, but it’s clear what the sport has done for me by educating me, by giving me access to certain things, by culturing me, by opening my mind to different places and lands. It’s really the one sport that truly connects the world. So it’s nice to be able to use it as a tool for diplomacy and democracy in a positive way.”
Even as the group travels thousands of miles away, they’re hoping to help connect the cause to others back home. A visual journalist from Brave New Media will be embedded with the group to provide video updates throughout the trip and plans to create a fully-produced piece for the annual Gala 4 Goals fundraiser on February 25.
But Sanneh isn’t content waiting until then. Asked if there’s anything else people should know about the trip that starts on January 15, he was quick to reply, “There’s still time to sign up!”