CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Dates when dreams come true get remembered.
Just ask Cheyenne South soccer player Nasim Hamid.
One date in particular is cemented in his mind.
“Sept. 9, 2009,” the sophomore said with a proud, wide smile.
That’s the day when Hamid, his mother, Amena, and brothers Ashraf, Shafee and Shuaib joined their late father, Muthanna, in the United States.
It was a reunion that took most of Nasim Hamid’s young life.
Faten Natal, the second-oldest of Amena Ali and Muthanna Hamid’s eight children, moved to the U.S. from Yemen with her then-husband in 1996.
She was able to sponsor her father’s move to the U.S. in 2003, but she couldn’t do the same for the rest of the family.
Muthanna, who worked as a van driver at Little America, had to sponsor his family himself. It was a sea of paperwork that had to be filled out perfectly and was accompanied by interviews and DNA testing.
Like all fathers, Muthanna wanted nothing more than to carve out a better life for his family, Shuaib Hamid said.
“We wanted to come over and live the American dream,” said Shuaib, a senior co-captain for South’s soccer team this past season. “We can have a better future here. In Yemen, most of the kids don’t go to college after high school. And the ones who go to college have a hard time finding a job there.”
Yemen also is a country torn by conflict. Armed political groups have been fighting for control for decades, and outsiders like Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State also have tried to exert influence in the country.
The Hamids lived in the village of Al-Salha, in mountainous west Yemen. They were able to avoid the conflict, which was largely confined to larger cities.
Still, the fighting impacted their lives. Their arrival in America was delayed by temporary closures of the U.S. embassy. Fighting also shut down the Sana’a International Airport weeks after the Hamids departed.
The years between Muthanna’s arrival and when the rest of his family came over were filled with Friday morning phone calls and quarterly care packages of money, candy, toys, clothes and videos of Muthanna and his American-born grandchildren.
“We’d get so excited when we got those boxes,” Shuaib said.
Nasim was so young when Muthanna left Yemen that he didn’t really know his father. Muthanna was the man on the videos and the man his brothers spoke of in reverential tones.
Muthanna died in December 2012 at age 54. But he made up for lost time with his youngest child.
“He always told me that I was his favorite,” said Nasim, 16. “He took me wherever he went. When I played football at Johnson (Junior High), he was at every practice and every game.”
The Hamids’ arrival in the U.S. was more than just a new chapter for the family.
“It was like finishing one book and starting another one,” Shuaib said. “It was an entirely new thing. There were different clothes, different people and different food.
“I was just a little kid and didn’t know anything. It felt like a dream.”
The Hamids are now sharing that dream with their uncle, Ali Saif, and his son, Riyad. All seven live in a house just blocks from South High.
When Shuaib and Nasim came to the U.S., they spoke limited English that they had picked up from older siblings who took mandatory English starting in middle school.
Sara Willson teaches English as a second language in Laramie County School District 1; she worked with both Shuaib and Nasim. Their personalities made them ideal students, she said.
“They always had smiles on their faces and were very outgoing,” she said. “They were always ready to take risks and try, no matter what I gave them. That helped them acquire English skills really quickly.”
Former South soccer coach Jeff Vega visited English learning students in an effort to bolster his roster with players who had at least played pickup soccer.
That’s how Shafee came to play for South. Shuaib had to wait two years, but he practiced with the Bison as an eighth-grader.
Current South coach Josh Peterson was an assistant for those teams and has seen Shuaib mature.
“He’s a diplomat on the field,” Peterson said. “He plays hard, and he tries to protect his team and make sure that everyone is on the same playing field and being treated fairly.
“Nasim is quiet, but he has more of a temper than Shuaib. He’ll direct guys on the field, but he’s mostly timid with his peers.”
Peterson has never encountered a language barrier with the brothers. The biggest communication problems came in terminology, but those were easily fixed.
“We’d do drills and Shuaib would tell us that he didn’t understand what we were asking him to do,” Peterson said. “When we showed him, a light bulb would go on and he’d say, ‘I know this. My brothers and I do this.’
“The background knowledge was there, it was just a matter of putting a name to it.”
Soccer helped the Hamids improve their English and build relationships with their classmates, Shuaib said.
“We started talking and being friends because of soccer,” he said. “It helped us bridge the gap and make friends.”
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com
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