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Community Champion: Local coach uses soccer to help refugees integrate in US culture

Updated: May 16, 2022


Every year, millions of refugees move to the United States for a better life.

That's why he's helping refugees through sports. Learning the fundamental skills of soccer takes a lot of practice. At Simple Foundation Soccer Academy, learning is about more than technique.

"Our focus is 100% graduate rate, reducing truancy, getting these kids in colleges and universities and also getting them jobs,"

Osuman Issaka, founder and CEO of Simple Foundation, said.

Issaka moved to the United States from Ghana with his family years ago.

He said that, initially, the language barrier made it difficult for him to communicate. But one thing made it easier.

"We started football. We did basketball. We did track,"

Issaka said.


So, Issaka and his brother Sal started the soccer academy.

"We use soccer as a catalyst to begin that process of integration,"

Issaka said.

It's a place where kids find a home away from home.

"We're all one big happy family. I love the environment,"

Abdillhi Adan said.

"He's like a second dad that I never had,"

Ahado Hamadr said.

The goal of the academy is to give immigrants and refugees the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.

"I've learned a lot of soccer but I've also learned how to respect everyone, no matter where they come from, how much money they have, their skin tone, how they dress. It just taught me a lot as a man,"

Adan said.

The kids have to be at practice at a set time and follow rules, which teaches them discipline.

The academy serves more than 350 kids from North and South Omaha. Many of the children come from low-income households but the only thing they need to bring is an open mind.

"One-hundred percent free. We give them jerseys, bags -- everything they need. All they have to do is show up,"

Issaka said.

And because it is able to provide access, this soccer academy is breaking barriers.

"We are really focusing on tackling generational poverty and the future is here and you will see a lot of success stories here,"

Issaka said.

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