As supporters and clubs buzz about the names on this year’s MLSsoccer.com 22 Under 22 list, one of those featured players has embarked on a campaign with different target in mind.
About an hour north of Ghana’s capital Accra sits Nankese, the tiny village where Latif Blessinggrew up.
“We have a lot talent in my home town,” he explained to MLSsoccer.com, “but no one is helping them, so I need to.”
Following the lead of LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller — who raised funds online for a sick family member earlier this year — the winger from Nankese launched a GoFundMe campaign he’s dubbed “Share The Blessing.”
“I’m the star in that village,” he explained. “Anything I have, I need to help them.”
The LAFC attacker missed his club’s trip to Chicago last week through injury, but in the downtime drafted the campaign, inspired in part by a video feature LAFC produced about Blessing’s story growing up in Nankese.
“When I have money, one day,” Blessing narrates toward the end of the video, as players in his home town knock a ball around a dirt and brush-laden pitch. “I’m going to make something special for you guys.”
Overwhelmed by the response to the video back home in Ghana as well as in Los Angeles and in his former MLS home of Kansas City, Blessing decided “one day” might as well be today.
And the “something special” he has in mind is a new pitch.
“You see my friends on the video, the way they play, the pitch, is not good,” Blessing told MLSsoccer.com Wednesday after being announced as No. 11 on the 22 Under 22 list. “They [need] pitches so they can get confidence to play on it.”
While the 21-year-old hasn’t yet landed the kind of contract that would enable him to fund the pitch himself, he’s turning to the LAFC, Sporting Kansas City and MLS communities to make it happen sooner, with large and small donations pouring in already from LAFC owners to members of the club’s 3252 Supporters Union.
After impressing in a regional youth competition, Blessing was scouted by Ghanaian Premier League side Liberty Professionals and was named MVP after leading the league in scoring during 2016. He made the jump to MLS with Sporting KC and last year played an integral role in SKC’s U.S. Open Cup title before being acquired by LAFC in the expansion draft.
The Ghanaian is confident there are players with even more potential than him in his home region, but explained the lack of quality playing surfaces has hindered development.
“You’re going to reach high, more than me,” Blessing said he tells young players back home.
Regardless of whether he reaches his goal of $100,000, he’s also begun soliciting other kinds of donations, asking his LAFC teammates, just as he did previously in Kansas City, for any unwanted boots — new or used — so he can pack them and send back home.
But for Blessing, the pitch is the big goal, the one he needs help to reach.
What would that do for his community?
“Nobody will sleep,” said the winger, flashing the infectious smile that’s endeared him to teammates and supporters. “When they get a new field, nobody will sleep. In the night they are going to play, so that’s why I am working hard to build something for my village.”
Help Blessing reach his goal by contributing here.
By Alex Dwyer, mlssoccer.com