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Cultures come together

Rivaldo Xavier (middle) tries to dribble past a defending Carly Dropik of Alexandria during a scrimmage on Monday morning at the Tom Roos “Train with the Pros” soccer camp. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

Alexandria’s youth soccer players had the opportunity to learn about more than just passing and dribbling at the annual Tom Roos “Train with the Pros” soccer camp this week.

Four members of a Haitian U13 soccer team and their coach traveled to Alexandria to participate in the camp after competing in the Schwan’s USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament from July 15 until Sunday in Blaine. Their visit provided a unique learning experience for Alexandria boys and girls soccer players from the first through 12th grades.

The Haitian boys named Woodly, Websky, Rovaldo and Darly stayed in town through Thursday along with their soccer coach Maxo, giving them and Alexandria’s youth soccer players the chance to experience new cultures.

“It’s all about building bridges and the chance to connect to people,” said Roos, the head coach of the Alexandria girls’ varsity soccer team. “What we’re doing is using soccer as an incentive to make a difference in the world.”

The connection between the Haitian visitors and Alexandria goes beyond this week’s camp. This connection started when Roos asked former professional soccer player and Minnesota native Tony Sanneh if he wanted to be one of the guest coaches at his annual youth soccer camp.

Sanneh told Roos he could not attend because he was working with the Haitian Initiative, a program his foundation started that uses soccer as an incentive to keep Haiti’s youth in school and provide them with a daily meal. This inspired Roos to begin helping the Haitian Initiative, and now players on local soccer teams have joined in this effort.

Alexandria has donated more than $3,000 to the program through fundraising efforts from the boys’ and girls’ high school teams and the Alexandria Area Soccer Association.

“After I started doing fundraising efforts for them, in the back of my mind I thought it would be the coolest thing for our local youth to be able to connect with these kids from Haiti and learn a little bit about their culture,” Roos said.

The Haitian visitors made sure to use a portion of their time to teach the camp’s players a little about their home and the language they speak. On Monday morning, Maxo and Woodly spent 15 minutes teaching some words from their native Creole language, including those for eat, sleep, go, friends and come in.

This connection was part of the reason Roos pushed to have the Haitian soccer players visit Alexandria.

“To me that’s really exciting, and it’s exciting that it revolves around soccer but it’s bigger than soccer itself,” Roos said.


With August 11 being the first day for boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer programs to start practicing in Minnesota, Roos said the camp provides a great opportunity for teams to gain some momentum heading into the season.

“At the high school level, for both our boys and girls, what I am looking at is to create some excitement that will carry them into their season, that will give them an attitude to get after it and make the most out of the season that they possibly can,” Roos said. “Not only create some excitement, but learn some skills from these coaches that have played at an incredibly high level.”

The camp also gives younger soccer players the opportunity to build an interest in the sport. Roos said having former professional soccer players and collegiate coaches at the camp gives the youth players a unique perspective.

“Number one, I want to give local kids the chance to experience a big camp atmosphere, with guest coaches that are college coaches,” Roos said. “I want to create an opportunity where kids get excited about the sport at an early age. And that’s what I am looking for with the young players.”

Captains’ practices for the high school programs will also begin shortly after the camp.