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(Buffalo News, NY) For whose city? Prolific Ezana Kahsay reflects on first summer with Erie

Posted by: Biniam Tekle

Date: Thursday, 03 August 2017

For whose city? Prolific Kahsay reflects on first summer with Erie

By  | Published  | Updated 

"As a striker, you need to get into players' heads and get them out of the game, and it works most of the time," Kahsay admitted when asked about his tendency to get into scuffles.

While there's clearly no love lost between Kahsay and FC Buffalo - his style of play and choice of summer team haven't exactly endeared him to Wolves supporters - there's no sense of vengeance or bitterness, just a combustible player in the heat of a rivalry.


Ultimately, it's Kahsay's relationships cultivated in Buffalo that tie him to the city, not soccer organizations or any particular institution.

Three of his former Buffalo United Soccer Stars (BUSS) teammates - Gilberto "Polo" Suazo, Anthony Saysay and Bobby Calvaneso - were present for Kahsay's match against the Wolves, among a handful of other friends and supporters from his time in Buffalo.

"They've been a big part of my life - all of those guys - they watched me grow up, they helped me become a better player, now they're still following me and looking out for me," said Kahsay. "They come out and support at these games. They're truly my family in Buffalo."

Polo Suazo, in orange, playing for BUSS in the BDSL in 2016. (via Queenston FC)

Suazo, a veteran of the BDSL and the unofficial godfather of African soccer players in Buffalo, has nurtured a friendship with Kahsay since the two met at pickup at Rumsey in Delaware Park, when Kahsay was 14.

Over the seven years that followed, the two have been teammates on BUSS and in regular communication despite the distance. Suazo has nothing but praise for his close friend.

"When I met Ezana I could already tell this kid had some talent and a good work ethic," wrote Suazo in a message. "Since then his game has matured a lot. Physically and mentally as a player you notice his increase in strength and strategy.

"His vision on the field is outstanding and his ability to control the ball increased. His accuracy in passing shows you how smart he is with the ball. He went from a solid defender to a better forward."

And while Kahsay might seem temperamental on the pitch, Suazo sees no concerns over his attitude or character.

"Off the field he is a humble and outgoing young man," the BUSS co-manager explained. "He's a very smart kid; I'm sure he makes many proud, including me. This should be just the beginning for him, not a single drop of doubt in me for this guy."

And whether it's due to his rise from refugee to Division I soccer player or his commitment to his Buffalo friends, Kahsay still has a local impact. International Prep's Pa Lu, the first Western New York Player of the Year and all-American to come from a Buffalo Public School, credits Kahsay, a former teammate, as his role model.


The spotlight will shine on Kahsay during the NPSL playoffs and, in all likelihood, in the fall with Akron. Some in the Buffalo soccer community will follow along with pride, knowing their efforts to help the Eritrean refugee - both as a student and as a soccer player - are being rewarded.

Others will wonder if his temper on the pitch will pose further problems, drawing the anger of referees, opposing players and coaches alike. For now, though, Kahsay's character off-the-field still shines enough to outweigh the maddening on-field antics.

"I'll tell you he is fiery, but I regularly bring my kids to practice and he's brilliant with them," said Erie's Melody. "He's done community service while here in Erie. He might seem a complex character but he's a good lad."

Ezana Kahsay, left, fights for a loose ball with FC Buffalo's Bayley Winkel. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Read more BN Soccer features:
*A mother's son: Akean Shackleford's soccer journey
*Caribbean connection: UB's Laura Dougall earns big chance
*From haikus to The Riley Effect: Meet Gary Bruce


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