Sunday, May 30, 2010

U.S. soccer's Jozy Altidore a product of the American dream

Jozy Altidore's parents, Haitian immigrants who moved to America seeking a better life, root hard for their son as he plays on soccer's grandest stage.

There are players more experienced and accomplished on the U.S. World Cup team, but none who better embodies the American dream than Jozy Altidore of Boca Raton.

This heartwarming journey to soccer's grandest stage began in 1975, on Bus No. 20 in Orange, N.J. That is where his parents met. His mother, Gisele, was a 23-year-old nursing student and Haitian immigrant who had come to America in 1973 to escape dictator Papa Doc Francois Duvalier. His father, Joseph, arrived from Haiti in 1975 with a couple hundred dollars in his pocket.

Joseph stepped onto the bus, and by chance, sat next to Gisele. Neither spoke much English. When they found out they shared a common heritage, their eyes lit up, and they broke into Creole. They never imagined that 35 years later, they would have a 20-year-old son who met President Obama at the White House on Thursday, and is on his way to South Africa on Sunday as a starting U.S. forward for the 2010 World Cup.

``Oh, my God, no, this was never in my wildest dreams,'' said Gisele, who is heading to South Africa with her husband next week to root for their son. ``I came from Haiti to work hard so that my kids wouldn't have to suffer. This shows that in the United States, anything is possible. You can achieve great things no matter where you come from.''

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