Freddy Adu: America’s Youngest Professional Soccer Player

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Freddy Adu: America’s Youngest Professional Soccer Player

Freddy Adu’s mastery of soccer began at an early age in the port city of Tema, Ghana. Adu recalls, “My mom was always the supplier of soccer balls, and so people were always knocking on my door, and trying to get me out so we could play.”

Immigrant_Freddy AduThe Move to the U.S.

Throughout the course of his adolescence, he developed a reputation as an amazing soccer player, quickly outpacing his peers, and often playing the game against men three times his age.

In 1997, when Adu was eight, his mother won the Diversity Visa Program, or the Green Card Lottery. The family immigrated to Rockville, Maryland in the United States. He became a U.S. citizen a few years later in 2003.

Adu’s Rise

A local soccer coach in the U.S. spotted Adu’s talent, and encouraged him to play soccer with older boys, who matched his skill level better. By the age of 10, news headlines had already begun featuring Adu’s name.

Italian soccer giant Inter Milan subsequently noticed Adu’s talent and offered him a six-figure contract, which his mother turned down, due to his tender age.

By 2003, Freddy Adu had become the most talked-about player in American soccer history. He was only 14 years old when the Major League Soccer drafted him and the future ahead of him was blindingly bright. Soccer fans declared him the “next Pele.”

He became the youngest American ever to sign a major league professional contract in any team sport when D.C. United chose him as the number one overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

Adu was termed, “the footballing wonderkid.” Nike signed him at the age of 13, a year before he began playing Major League Soccer at 14. He debuted with the United States national team at 16.

“My family was really poor,” says Adu. “My mum was working two or three jobs to take care of my brother and me. So if Nike comes to you and says they want to give you a million dollar contract and the MLS wants to make you the highest-paid player at 14, you can’t say ‘no’. You just can’t.”

He has openly commented on his sudden rise to fame.

“I don’t want people to remember me as the 14-year-old ‘wonderkid’. I want people to remember me as a great footballer and as someone who gave it my all.”

The Effects of Adu’s Early Fame

At 16, the World Food Programme asked Adu to become an ambassador, and he recorded a public service message for them to advocate for the campaign to end hunger. When he turned 18, Adu pledged to continue his personal campaign to help less privileged children.

The world of soccer had massive expectations for Adu after his early success. His career has seen him play for more than a dozen clubs, but with limited success. The inconsistency has left questions about if Adu’s career has been a success or a failure.

“I’ve looked back on these past few years and I’ve wasted a lot of time, wasted years of my career, just not dedicating the time I should have to the sport,” Adu said. “Lucky for me,…I’m only 26 and I can change and correct the things I’ve done wrong, and that’s what I’m focused on right now.”

Adu’s current career does not take away from his incredible achievements: moving from poor economic conditions in Ghana to the United States, and succeeding as the youngest American in history to sign a major league professional contract.

We are beyond thrilled that Adu made it to the United States. Most importantly, his successes and spirit continue to inspire young enthusiastic soccer players around the world.

Nisha Katti

About Nisha Katti

Nisha Katti is BlueTone's Marketing Coordinator. She specializes in content writing and social media management, among other activities. Nisha is a native of Atlanta, yet her heart will always lie with the magnificent magnolias of Athens, Georgia, where she attended the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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