Giving hope to underprivileged children - the inspiring story of Fifi Baiden

BY: Beatrice Laryea

Ex-Columbus Crew midfielder Fifi Baiden says he is ready to give back to the society which helped to nurture his talent by offering hope of a better future to orphans and underprivileged children in Ghana.

From humble beginnings at Ajumako in the Central Region to the Right to Dream Academy and finally getting opportunity to go to school in the USA, the 26-year-old midfielder believes he has first-hand experience of the plight of poor children and plans to give them hope through his newly-formed foundation.

“Growing up in Ghana was very tough. My parents struggled to provide a roof over our heads. They could not provide me and my siblings three square meals let alone provide for our education so I sold kerosene at age 10 to support my family.”

“Fortunately I received a full scholarship to join the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana and they helped me to land a scholarship to further my education in the U.S at Dunn School and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) before I went to play professional soccer for the Columbus Crew in the Major League Soccer,” Fifi narrated.

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According to him, the vision of the Fifi Foundation is to give hope and better future to mainly orphans and underprivileged children in Ghana by empowering them with valuable tools through education and sports.

Fifi Baiden in a photograph with some of the orphans

The success story

Like many Ghanaian youngsters, he grew up loving football and honed his skills on the streets of Ajumako, with a dream of making the professional ranks later in life. Opportunities were few and far between for Baiden, who had to help his parents to make ends meet from a very early age.

As fate would have it, his life took a dramatic turn when he won a scholarship to the Right to Dream Academy – famed for producing some of the best talents in the country through education, football and its unique character training.

When Fifi Baiden was drafted by Columbus Crew in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Super Draft on January 22, 2014, it was a crowning moment after years of hard work and determination.

Baiden, then became the second Right to Dream graduate to sign for the MLS side, following in the footsteps of Michael Tetteh, who signed with the Seattle Sounders three years earlier.

“The Academy changed me a lot. Getting the opportunity to be at Right to Dream was a huge boost for me because it gave me the training, tuition, food and everything.”
He made an immediate impact at his new school with his dedication to his studies, alongside winning MVP for three consecutive seasons in the school football team.

Dodowa-based Dreams FC displaying the trophy they won last Sunday

It was while playing for Santa Barbara SC that he caught the attention of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who offered him a scholarship.

During his time at UCSB, he earned many accolades, including his selection to the All-Big West First Team, as well as a spot on the Big West Academic All-Conference Team.

His career peaked as he made 18 appearances in his first year at UCSB before making a further 23 starts in the subsequent season.

Ray of hope for the underprivileged

Through the Fifi Soccer Foundation, the former Columbus Crew player is positively touching the lives of underprivileged Ghanaian children and their families.

The NGO, founded in June last year is currently helping about 50 children between the ages of six-12.

“I have always had the desire to give back to my country and to join in the quest to provide opportunities for poor and abandoned children,” Fifi said.

Fifi is being supported by a board including three other RtD graduates and Black Stars players David Accam, Mohammed Abu and Emmanuel Boateng to achieve the aims and objectives of the his foundation.

Players of the Fifi FC displaying their medals

Activities of the foundation

In fultilment of his promises, last weekend, the US-based player and his team organised the annual Fifi Foundation Football Gala and Marathon Event at Ayenya in the Eastern Region, which saw Dodowa-based Dreams FC finishing tops in the football gala.

Dreams FC, Under-13 colt club won all matches in the round robin stages to finish tops with six points ahead of strong contenders Lo FC, who were second with five points.

Fifi FC came third with four points followed by Ayikuma FC and Regent FC, who garnered three and two points respectively.

The two-day event, which was solely sponsored by Fifi saw 13-year-old Mutakilu Muritala winning the 20-kilometre marathon in a time of 40:58 seconds.

The Accra-based athlete beat 40 other runners to take home the ultimate prize while Isaac Dudor finished second within 42:38 seconds with Bismark Adzali settling for the third position in 45:48 seconds.

Hundreds of residents from Ayenya and surrounding communities also benefitted from a free health screening, organised during the two-day event while health professionals at the Ayenya Community Health Centre gave talks on preventive measures and treatment for some diseases.