The sky was cloudy, and there was a chill in the air. But as quickly as Latif Blessing sat down across from me alongside the LAFC coaching pitch, he brought the sunshine. If you have watched Latif play, you have noticed his smile. He plays with youthful exuberance and joy that are not possible to ignore. His club and teammates describe him as the “heart and soul” of LAFC, and I was asking yourself if I’d see the very same bliss in the course of an interview suitable on the heels of an intense coaching session. Just after all, his teammates have been heading off to shower, unwind, and consume lunch with each other, and he had to sit down for a media interview. I didn’t have to wonder lengthy. As quickly as Latif sat down, he leaned forward and busted out an straightforward smile. He was prepared, eager, and pleased to speak to me. Lunch could wait.
Increasing UP IN GHANA
I asked Latif about increasing up in Ghaha. “How did you finish up right here? What was your childhood like?” Latif lit up as he told me about his childhood days. His mother showered him with adore and help, but she wasn’t smothering. She saw his adore for the game and let him pursue his dream of reaching the top rated levels of his sport. Latif played soccer with his mates just about every day on dirt fields, frequently barefoot. There was an emphasis on education, nonetheless. Mama Blessing produced positive Latif and his twin sister, Latifa, attended college. Math was his favored topic [fist bump], but Latif’s face lit up even far more when he described the dominance his school’s soccer group accomplished in Ghana.
Generally Searching TO THE Optimistic
As Latif described his rise by way of the neighborhood soccer leagues, his smile in no way faded. There have been slight hints at components of neighborhood corruption. Alternatively of dwelling on the adverse, even though, Latif made use of that to point out the reality that he had amazing mates and family members who he knew have been on his side. Certain, there was corruption, but that occurs everywhere. He sees his friendships and his loving family members as an even larger blessing for the reason that of it.
COMING TO AMERICA
Latif was initially brought to MLS in 2017 by Sporting Kansas City, whose coaches had identified him as a promising young talent in Ghana. Latif described the news, “My agent known as me and mentioned, ‘You’re going to America. Get prepared to go to the airport.’ I was so excited. The paperwork at the embassy was really hard, but my agent helped me. Everybody helped me. I got to the airport, and I sat there exactly where I believed I was supposed to be for a extremely lengthy time. I asked an individual for assistance, and they mentioned, ‘Oh your plane is gone. We’ll assistance you get on an additional plane.’ I produced it to Kansas City, and I known as my mom to inform her I was OK. And it was so cold! Kansas City is cold.” He went on to describe how new mates and Sporting KC employees helped him discover acceptable clothing and produced positive he felt at property.
A STAR IS BORN IN LOS ANGELES
Just after a year at Sporting Kansas City, he was traded to LAFC in 2018, exactly where he has blossomed beneath Bob Bradley. Through the 2018 LAFC inaugural season, he began 18 of 30 MLS standard season games, scoring 5 objectives and adding six assists. His speed, capability to transform the game, and his constructive spirit promptly produced him a favored amongst his teammates and the LAFC fans.
SHARING THE BLESSING
Though enjoying his accomplishment in MLS and Los Angeles, Latif remains committed to assisting youngsters in Nankese, his property village in Ghana. His dream is to develop and equip a soccer field and college in his property town, so young youngsters do not have to play barefoot on the uneven dirt fields of his childhood. “I worked so really hard back in Ghana. SO Really hard. I played really hard just about every day for the reason that persons have been telling me, ‘You can be good! You can be experienced.’ So, just about every day I worked really hard. Pushed tougher. Ran more quickly. Dribbled by way of everybody. But the field was so poor. I want my village to have a good field.” Searching at the field subsequent to our table, awestruck, he mentioned, “American children have it so straightforward. These fields are so good!”
SOCCERLOCO SHARES THE BLESSING, WILL YOU?
Through my investigation just before this interview, I had gotten a small glimpse of Latif’s passion for assisting his village. Just before I drove up to LA, I went into my boss’s workplace, told him about Latif, and asked if there was something he could donate to assistance. John Lococo, founder and owner of Soccerloco, who certainly had essential tasks on his to-do list for the day, jumped up from his desk and had me stick to him back into the bowels of the SoccerLoco warehouse. He pulled down an massive box of unsold youth cleats, and mentioned, “Here. Take these to him. And inform him he’s carrying out a good job. We’re pleased to assistance.” If you would like to assistance Latif’s village, you can donate to his GoFundMe HERE.
Everybody at SoccerNation and SoccerLoco wishes Latif Blessing and LAFC continued accomplishment by way of their 2019 season. If you habven’t but gone to a game at Banc of California stadium, the season has just begun. You have lots of time. Check out my story about the LAFC season opener. and get to a game! (And cheer a small additional for Latif Blessing.)