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My Story

My name is Emmanuel Afriyie Mario Sabbi. My mother tells me, if there was one thing that was for certain when she was pregnant with me, it was what my first name would be. Emmanuel, one of God’s numerous names in the Christian Bible meaning “God is with us”, was not a hard one to settle on given everything that was happening around my family at the time. 

My parents migrated to the United States for a better life for me and my siblings when I was very young but I was born in Schio, a small town in the province of Vicenza, Italy. 

Football was huge in Schio. You’d find kids playing in every corner you turn in the town and this is where I believe my passion for the game started. My Godmother, Matilde Stella Salviato knew how much I loved the game and would buy me soccer boots and balls every time I outgrew or lost the last one.

Thinking back, this was such an incredibly selfless gesture because I literally broke everything kicking my soccer ball in her house, and yet, every time I ruined a ball, she’d be on hand to buy me another. She would say, “you better replace everything when you go pro and rich”. At the time, I had no idea what that meant, but as an adult now, I see the true value of nurturing potential in a kid once you notice where their interests lie. This has stuck with me all my life and I’ve made it a life goal to make everyone that has been in my corner and supported me through my journey as an athlete immensely proud to have played an integral part of my story. 

My family, most importantly my sister in recent times, has been an unlimited source of support because I’ve had some tough days where things looked bleaker than bright, and every time I went through a phase like that, she would always be there to make sure I made it out.

My father played semi-professional football in Ghana. He was strong and such a competitor and I believe I inherited this genetically. I explored these genetic abilities very early in life. I wouldn’t stop running on the field. I’d fight for every ball and usually came up on top of every challenge. Game days couldn’t come quickly because it showed me just how much tougher I was than the other kids. And so of course it came as no surprise to my family, coaches, and teammates when I took the American youth soccer system by storm. A combination of my athleticism, technical ability, and most importantly quick decision-making on the field paved the way for me to play in and against top youth clubs in the country. I went on to play memorable games and win laurels at the youth club/academy level. It was an honor to be called upon to represent the United States soccer team at the youth level and an even greater honor to have won the CONCACAF with the U-20 side and participated in the U-20 World Cup. This achievement served as a constant reminder of what and where hard work and dedication can get you.

My exploits at the youth level competitions threw light on me and it wasn’t long till top European sides took notice of my game. My first stint in Europe was at UD Las Palmas in Spain where I played for a year. I moved on from there to Hobro IK in Denmark with the intent of gaining more playtime. This would be my first experience in top-flight European league football and as usual, I gave everything for the team and took the league by storm. I helped the team fight off relegation more than once to make sure we stayed in the top flight. Once again, I piqued the interest of another club in Denmark, Odense Boldklub, who decided to sign me to their organization after my contract with Hobro had ended in 2020.

I’ve always said I’m Ghanaian at heart by virtue of the fact that my parents are originally from there. Being born in Italy naturally makes me Italian and moving to the United States, growing up in Columbus, Ohio and eventually gaining citizenship through naturalisation also obviously very much makes me American. This brings a lot of versatility to my nature and uniqueness to my game. I have fans from every department of my background who are able to relate to me and my journey. This is important because it gives me an idea of how much weight the opportunities I’ve been afforded hold and how much of an inspiration I can be to kids around the world when I’m successful.

Today, I can indeed call consider myself a Ghanaian Italian American working incredibly hard on a clear path to becoming a better version of myself and to be one of football’s greatest. And as my name suggests, God has, will be and is always with me.

I am Emmanuel Afriyie Mario Sabbi.