Last winter, the New York Times published a profile on Idi Diallo, a Muslim young man who came to America as a teenager from Abidjan, the capitol of the Ivory Coast. As a boy, Idi had played soccer for the AC Milan Football Academy Camp, a youth program sponsored by the elite Italian football league. At the age of 15, he decided to come to America to pursue the sport but ended up alone, homeless, and with limited English skills. Through a series of fortunate circumstances (finding a mentor who guided him through high school) and unfortunate (his mentor tragically dying), the young man, now 20, shared his story with the Times, saying he was at a crossroads, not sure if he should continue to pursue his lifelong dream of playing soccer or attend college. Readers responded with compassion, and action.
For example, Dan Rothman of Fountain Valley, California gave Idi plane tickets for a soccer tryout in Long Beach, and created a GoFundMe page to help with expenses. “I was mad — for lack of a better word — that a guy could travel so far in physical distance, and in his life, and overcome so many obstacles, and then not be able to make that final leg of the journey,” says Mr. Rothman.
Idi had the opportunity to tour Long Beach City College and meet with the soccer coach, who has invited him into the program next semester. “I didn’t even know about college in Ivory Coast,” says Idi. “It wasn’t an option.”
In total, New York Times readers paid for three plane tickets and a tryout registration fee. Some even opened up their homes for Idi to stay overnight.
Though Idi’s tryouts have gone well, he hasn’t landed a spot on a professional team though he says he feels “blessed” by readers, mentors, teachers and social workers who have all guided him. “They all deserve thanks,” he said. “They’re all a part of my story.”