iACT’s Darfur United is proud to welcome Baggio Husidic as our newest DU Coach Ambassador. Baggio plays for the MLS Champions Los Angeles Galaxy, and has a powerful and inspirational story. His journey began in Bosnia, from where he and his family had to escape the horrors of war as refugees. I asked Baggio ten questions, as we begin to get to know him and welcome him to Darfur United.
Who was your favorite soccer player growing up, and why?
My favorite soccer player growing up was Roberto Baggio. I was a huge fan of Italian football and he was the poster child for Italian soccer at that time. I got my nickname because of him.
What is your routine on game-day, and what do you eat that day?
My game day routine is pretty relaxed. I wake up in the morning, have some homemade granola with fresh fruit, and have a few cups of coffee. As I’m preparing the food and coffee, the English Premier League games are starting, so I throw on my favorite team jersey (Arsenal) and enjoy the morning with my fiancée and animals. After breakfast, I take my dog, Nyte, on a nice walk through the neighborhood. Around noon I start to plan my big meal of the day. I usually make black bean burgers and a big salad. For a snack before the game I use the leftover bean burgers and make burritos out of them. I don’t nap during the day. I try to keep myself entertained so I’m not sitting at home thinking about the game the whole time. At 4pm I usually leave for the stadium where I continue to watch more games on TV and just relax in the players lounge.
Tell us about your most memorable goal, from any game you’ve scored in, since you started playing organized football.
My most memorable goal was in 2010 when I scored my first professional goal for the Chicago Fire.
What are some activities you do to reduce stress and relax?
I’ve been able to manage stress really well throughout my life and now stress is not a factor in my life (or a very very small factor). I try to live in the moment and try not think about stuff I can’t control. This method helps a lot with stress. What you can control is the response you have to certain problems or setbacks. One way for me to relax is to go on a nice long walk with my dog and think about my life and where I am today. I also really enjoy being in the water.
Why would mindfulness—training yourself to be “in the moment”— be a useful tool for a soccer player?
Training yourself to be in the moment is key in soccer. You will never know the outcome of the game beforehand, so if you go into the game trying to guess what the score of the game will be before it even starts, you’re not giving yourself the full concentration needed to perform at your best.
At an early age, you and your family were forced to flee your home in Bosnia. What does the word “home” mean to you today?
The word “home” means where my family is. I’ve lived in so many different places and I’ve realized that “home” can be moved to wherever you want, as long as you have your family with you.
Refugees have been regularly in the news recently. What are your thoughts and emotions, as you see how the world is responding?
I go through different thoughts and emotions watching the refugees on TV. It really bothers me the way different news stations talk about them. They all have different agendas and it’s hard to watch people behind a TV speaking so poorly of innocent people. I can’t believe that we (USA) aren’t taking any refugees in. We had a big part to play in their struggle. I think back to when I was in the camp, feeling powerless, and it’s sad to see that the different countries are treating the refugees so poorly. It’s really terrible to see how many evil and disturbed people there are in this world.
For a refugee boy or girl who has lost just about everything and might feel trapped in a situation over which he or she has no control, what role can football and sport play in restoring a sense of normalcy?
When I lived in Germany, the only place where I felt equal to the people around me was on a soccer field. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. You’re not being judged on how you look, your accent, or where you are from. You are being judged on your performance on the field.
You’ve had an amazing journey, from being a refugee fleeing a war-torn region, to being a champion with the Los Angeles Galaxy. What has kept you positive and driven, from when you were that young boy in a refugee camp to today?
I developed a strong drive when I was a young boy. Nothing has changed since then. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I make sure to live every single minute of my life with happiness. The struggle in my past has given me the ability to maintain a balanced emotional state and that has helped me tremendously in dealing with success and failure, on and off the field. Because of that, it has helped me maintain my drive and realize that I am on the field because I deserve it and that I have worked very hard to be where I am now.
What message would you like to give to a young refugee boy or girl who is going through tough circumstances but also loves to play?
Let the soccer field be a place where you can express yourself fully and let all your emotions pour out on the field.