Sanna Nyassi survived two battles with malaria to reach MLS
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Impact forward Sanna Nyassi overcame more obstacles than most to reach Major League Soccer, including twice waging a life-threatening battle with malaria. The disease is also something he has in common with his twin brother Sainey, a midfielder with the league’s New England Revolution.
“I got sick
with it (when I was 16). It was very bad,” the 23-year-old native of Bwiam,
Gambia, said of the disease that has gripped the African continent for decades. Nyassi
contracted malaria a second time when he was 20 and with the accompanying
symptoms, fever, chills, headache and vomiting, he thought he was going to die.
But after being hospitalized and treated, he recovered in a month. “It’s a very serious illness in my country and the fight (against it) continues,” Nyassi told The Gazette Tuesday. “Thanks to the work of the foundation set up by Bill Gates a big difference is being made.”
The World Health Organization reports 3.3 billion people risk getting malaria annually and those living in the poorest countries are most vulnerable. In 2010, 90 per cent of malaria-related deaths occurred in Africa, killing almost 600,000 children, the majority under the age of 5. The disease is caused by a parasite that is spread to humans after being bitten by infected mosquitoes. It can be prevented with the use of bed nets and treated successfully with quick medical attention.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and wife, Melinda, through their foundation, have contributed more than $1.3 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since 2002, including an additional $750 million donated in January.
brother, Sainey, was hospitalized with malaria in late October 2010 after
contracting the disease after amosquito bite in Burkina Faso while playing
with the Gambia national team in the Africa Cup of Nations. He was hospitalized
after returning to play one game with the Revolution against the New York Red
Since his last battle with the disease, Sanna has been active with MLS W.O.R.K.S., the league’s community outreach initiative aimed at social and health issues affecting young people. It supports a number of programs including the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing but Nets, a global campaign to prevent malaria deaths with the purchase, distribution and education on the proper use of mosquito bed nets.
Nyassi received the league’s humanitarian award for his efforts for the month of April 2010. Nyassi has been in the league since 2009 after he and his brother drew interest among teams with their play in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Gambia finished second to Mexico in Group C with a 2-0-1 record and the third game, a 2-1 win over Portugal, was played at Olympic Stadium where Sainey was a starter and Sanna was a substitute. “My brother made a big impression. He ended up going to New England right away,” said Nyassi. “It took me a little longer to get MLS.”
followed his brother to New England on a tryout basis, but ended up being
loaned to the Seattle Sounders for the latter part of the 2008 season in the
North American Soccer League and prior to Seattle’s joining MLS in 2009.
He played two seasons with Seattle before becoming available in the 2010 MSL Expansion Draft where, immediately after being selected by the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, he was dealt to the Colorado Rapids. He scored five goals in 26 games, 17 as starter with the Rapids last season, including a hat trick and his first three goals with his new team against New York on July 20.
Author: Baboucarr Camara