What is your name and home field location?
My name is Foday Turay. I am the team captain and team coach for Sierra Leone in the Unity Cup. We practice at 74th and Lindbergh [Suffolk Park].
What is your connection to Sierra Leone?
I was born in Sierra Leone, raised there, migrated to the United States, and have been residing in Philadelphia for over 15 or 16 years. I’m a Sierra Leone Philadelphian. Sierra Leone is my hometown, Philadelphia is my city.
What made you interested in participating in the Unity Cup?
We do have a team already called Salone FC. The name was from the country Sierra Leone, and we changed it into Salone FC. The FC stands for “football club.” When the Unity Cup came along, it drew our attention and we were interested in participating in the Unity Cup tournament.
As a returning team, what was your favorite moment from last year’s tournament?
Every game was special. You know, playing different countries in the Unity Cup, there was also meeting different people, making new friends every day. Every day was kind of special. You deal with different cultures and faces. Everything about the Unity Cup was special. But the final was special. The celebration, every country participated, was awesome.
How did your team come together?
We have new players that joined the team since after the Unity Cup, since the season started in April this year.
Note: Team Sierra Leone first came together for last year’s Unity Cup, making it to the semi-finals!
Can you tell us a bit about the rest of your team?
We do have a mixed team. We have players that have passion for soccer, they’ve played soccer since childhood. It’s a mixed culture, a mixed team. The name [of the team] was blended from the country Sierra Leone with the players from all over the world. We have players from America, we have players from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, you name it. It’s an international team, it’s a soccer club.
What does soccer mean to your community?
Soccer means a lot in our community. Soccer means life. We use soccer to bring our community together and spend our life together pretty much.
Why is soccer important to you personally?
I’ve been playing soccer since I was a child. It’s my passion, it’s my dream. I played to represent the country from youth stage, up to youth age 18 I played to represent the country nationally. So it was my passion and my dream.
How has soccer made your life better?
Soccer has made my life beautiful. I’m meeting different people every day of my life, and I have people that I’ve met from soccer and we interact as if we are family just because we play the same sport we have passion for. For example, I’ll say Bill [Salvatore, Unity Cup Director], we met through soccer and now we are close friends. We don’t just talk about soccer, we talk about other stuff.
Why do you think soccer is so popular around the world?
It’s the beauty and it’s the sport itself. It’s entertaining. It helps support your healthy lifestyle and also makes you grow as a people person.
How do you think soccer in general (and the Unity Cup in particular) promotes inclusivity?
My own opinion, I can tell last year, it was the beginning of the Unity Cup. It was fantastic. People get along. It was peaceful, nice, and brought different cultures, people from Vietnam to Africa, people from Germany to Africa, and we all interacted and connected without any commotion. It was awesome, it was great.
What places (such as restaurants or cultural centers) or groups in Philadelphia would you recommend to someone if they wanted to learn more about Sierra Leonean culture?
We reside in Southwest Philadelphia. Southwest Philadelphia is pretty much considered to be African nation. If you’re looking for Sierra Leone food, I recommend you come down to Southwest Philadelphia. Between the blocks of 62nd and Woodland to 74th and Woodland, you will see varieties of African stores, African businesses [including Taste Africa, a Sierra Leonean restaurant]. We pretty much don’t miss Sierra Leone that much. We have it all here.