When Mohamed Abdalla and Baradin Ahmed first met, they didn’t have much, but they both had a tremendous love of soccer. Both of their families originated from Sudan; however, as tensions rose and it became unsafe to live in the country, their families made the difficult but necessary decision to flee during the war. They each relocated in Kenya where they lived in a refugee camp.
It was at school in the refugee camp that Mohamad and Baradin struck up their friendship and bonded over the beautiful game. Though they didn’t have soccer balls to play with, that didn’t stop them from finding ways to play. The boys constructed their own soccer balls out of plastic sacks and socks, and they would burn the sides of the bags to create the shape of a soccer ball.
In 2017, both boys moved to the United States with their families and enrolled at Kansas City International Academy (KCIA). Neither knew English at the time of their move, though they quickly learned as it became yet another of the multiple languages they each speak.
During their time at KCIA, teachers and classmates noticed Mohamed and Baradin’s leadership qualities. The boys routinely helped others, including volunteering to help clean up Weeks’ classroom every day after school before getting on the bus.
They began playing soccer with Global FC, an organization that serves underserved youth through year-round soccer, education, and mentorship. Soon after, Mohamed and Baradin were accepted to Rockhurst High School, where they now play and study.
Lauren Weeks, Mohamed and Baradin’s 6th grade teacher at KCIA during the 2019-2020 school year, instantly knew the boys were special when she first met them. In fact, they had made such an impression on her that nearly four years later she wanted to do something to honor the boys, which is why she nominated them to be Blue KC Sporting Samaritans.
“I had them as students, and they’ve never left my brain,” Weeks said. “They are the most respectful students I think I’ve ever had. They are very driven, and they actually lift up other students. They lift up teachers. They are very good role models and examples. They work hard in school, and they love soccer.”
Weeks was honored herself as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan in August 2022. As she went through the process, Mohamad and Baradin stayed on her mind.
“When I went through this experience, all I could think about was them and how cool this would be for them because they are very deserving, polite, respectful gentlemen,” Weeks said. “They have a passion for soccer. I just thought their story needed to be told.”
As part of being honored as Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, Mohamed and Baradin received a behind-the-scenes stadium tour at Children’s Mercy Park, met club legend Matt Besler and defender Kayden Pierre, and attended their first Sporting KC game.
“It’s an honor to be a part of [this program],” said Besler. “To see the look on their faces, it’s special.”
“I’m impressed with how they carry themselves. I could not imagine that background. They’re well-spoken. They’re confident. They look you in the eye. I do not think that I would be in their position if I had to go through what they went through,” Besler continued.
“It’s a crazy experience,” said Mohamed. “It wouldn’t be possible were it not for [Lauren Weeks] and [KCIA elementary teacher] Megan Jefferson. I appreciate all the hard work they’ve done for us, and I love everything that’s going on.”
When asked their favorite part of the experience so far Baradin replied it was walking on the field, and Mohamed said meeting Johnny Russell.
“It’s inspirational, because I want to be a soccer player one day,” said Baradin. “Seeing those guys play gives me the motivation to want to chase my dream and become a soccer player.”
As they continue their soccer careers playing for Rockhurst and whatever may come after that, the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan experience is sure to be one they will never forget.
It will surely be an unforgettable experience for Matt Besler.
“It’s a credit to them and their families. It’s a credit to the people that have come into their lives, brought them to Kansas City, are supporting them, and are giving them incredible opportunities,” said Besler.
“It makes me happy just to be a Kansas Citian.”