Son of African refugees, Swedish-born Mohammed Saeid finds a home with Colorado Rapids
Acquired from Minnesota last month, Saeid improves Rapids midfield with creativity
Scott Takushi, Pioneer Press
Colorado’s Mohammed Saeid, left, and Minnesota’s Ibson go after the ball in the first half as Minnesota United played the Colorado Rapids at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, April 23, 2017.
By JOHN MEYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
| The Denver Post
April 28, 2017 at 7:16 pm
COMMERCE CITY — Among the 750,000 refugees who fled Eritrea in the 1980s was 11-year-old Meb Keflezghi, who immigrated to San Diego, became a citizen and competed in four Olympics for the U.S. while becoming one of the greatest American distance runners ever.
That mass migration caused by the Eritrea’s 30-year civil war with Ethiopia also included the parents of Rapids midfielder Mohammed Saeid, who left their impoverished homeland on the Horn of Africa in 1989. First they went to Sudan, then Saudi Arabia, Italy, Norway and ultimately Sweden, where Saeid grew up.
“They were thinking for a better life for their family,” said Saeid, who came to the Rapids last month from Minnesota. “You see dead bodies everywhere, and that’s not what you want for your children. My dad was an educated man, so for him it was just a great future for the children. That’s all he cared about.”
Saeid was born in Sweden in 1990. He spent his teen years in England at the West Bromwich Albion youth soccer academy but returned to Sweden to begin his professional career.
“Swedish people are very welcoming people,” Saeid said. “They took care of me and my family and they gave us a better life. They gave us hope. They made me see what I am able to do and gave me a future. I’m very thankful for that.”
Sweden has long been one of Europe’s most welcoming countries for refugees, a political position that has become controversial in recent years. Four people were killed in a terror attack this month in downtown Stockholm.
“What’s happening all over Europe, even all over the world, it’s crazy,” Saeid said. “You’d have to be an insane person to be doing that (terrorism) to someone who is innocent. Whatever religion you are, it’s not right.”
Saeid was playing for Orebro SK in Sweden when he impressed Hammarby coach Gregg Berhalter, the first American to manage a European pro team. After Berhalter was fired in 2013, he took over as the manager of the Columbus Crew and went after Saeid.
“We played against him,” Saeid said. “I had a couple of good games, so when he left for Columbus he wanted me to be part of his plan.”
Saeid played two seasons for Columbus, then was claimed by Minnesota in the MLS expansion draft last December. He came to Colorado on March 31 with midfielder Joshua Gatt in a deal that sent Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to Minnesota.
Coach Pablo Mastroeni initially deployed Saeid as a holding midfielder, but last week asked him how he’d feel about playing as the No. 10 — a play-making withdrawn forward. The move would free Saeid from defensive responsibilities and allow his natural creativity to flow more freely. Saeid readily agreed, believing No. 10 is his best position. Mastroeni put him there in last Sunday’s game at Minnesota, playing Dillon Powers and Micheal Azirabehind him, and now he may remain a fixture at the 10.
“It was a good fit,” Mastroeni said. “It was the first time all year where I felt we won the midfield. I think it was a great partnership between those guys. I think we can continue to build on that performance.”