It’s the time of the year when we look back and give thanks for our blessings throughout the year.
For Real Salt Lake defender Abdoulie Mansally, that isn’t a practice reserved for the Thanksgiving holiday, though. A 25-year-old native of The Gambia in West Africa, Mansally is eternally grateful for the opportunities he has today. These opportunities are a far cry from what he experienced during his childhood, where he lost his father at a young age and fought through poverty to achieve success as a professional soccer player.
That is the fundamental reason he started the Mansally Foundation, efforts that earned him Real Salt Lake’s Humanitarian of the Year honor for 2014.
The Mansally Foundation (www.mansallyfoundation.org) was started as an avenue to give back to the community that nurtured him in his youth. Previously, Mansally had donated soccer equipment to the children of his hometown of Banjul and helped others with school expenses. While those seemingly small efforts can go great distances, it is his work with Malla Manneh that drove him to start the foundation.
Manneh was forced to leave school at a young age after being stricken with cancer. As she underwent treatment in Senegal, she fought for her life. However, she would need treatment elsewhere to survive the battle. So Mansally took to her cause and started raising money, through his foundation, to help her treatment and recovery. Getting her healthy and back in school to help her family of eight became a priority and an inspiration to the RSL defender.
Mansally’s desire to aid his community carries deep roots and is symbolized to him by a mango.
While trying out for his nation’s U-17 National Team, Mansally hid from his competitors while eating a mango he had picked from near his house. Accustomed to sharing meals with his mother and five brothers, this was a special treat. While others at the tryout could readily buy food or new training equipment, Mansally didn’t have that luxury. He didn’t want his family to see him eating it, since they couldn’t share in that nourishment and he didn’t want his poverty to be viewed as a weakness by the other trailists or the coaches, so he hid. When he earned a spot on that U-17 squad, the mango became a symbol to him and he never forgot the hunger he had in that moment and the satisfaction he felt when it helped him reach his goals.
Now, through his foundation, Mansally can serve metaphorically as that mango that helped him in a time of need. By helping children of The Gambia have access to food, medical care and education, he opens up the possibilities to a brighter future like the one he has enjoyed in his eight seasons in MLS.
In addition to donations through the foundation’s website, Mansally is also raising money by holding soccer clinics. On Dec. 6, he will host a clinic at North Salt Lake’s Elite Development Academy from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. He is asking for a donation of $100 from each participant and will also be collecting soccer equipment to deliver to The Gambia. For more information and to sign up, email email@example.com.