A Touching Reunion Highlights Second Day of Central Regional Showcase

Academy Players Reunited Four Years After Being Separated from an Orphanage in Ethiopia

Westfield, Ind. (Oct. 15, 2016) - They say that soccer brings the world together, and nowhere was that more evident than at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana on Saturday afternoon. Amid the exceptional play on the second day of the U-13 and U-14 Central Regional Showcase that saw a combined 42 games played, one of the best highlights happened off the field in a meeting between childhood friends.

Shortly before noon on an overcast and breezy autumn day, brothers David, Jude and Simeon Alexander pulled up captains' chairs on the sideline of Field 17 to watch their old friend, Dhani Russell, run the midfield for the Colorado Rapids U-14 in their game against St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro.

The kids first met five years ago in their hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While Dhani warmed up, David, 11, shared the story of how he and Jude, 10, played soccer with Dhani on a small dirt space at the orphanage that the kids called 'home' as they waited to see what paths their futures would take.

Less than a year after they were introduced, the kids would be separated.

In 2012, Tisha and Monte Alexander adopted David, Jude and Simeon and to expand their family in suburban Indianapolis that included five other children. A few months later, Tisha learned that Dhani and his sister, Hana, were adopted by Amber and Tyson Russell and began their new life in Longmont, Colorado.

The parents have remained in touch, and naturally, the kids were also able to connect - albeit it through the parents' Facebook accounts. Still, the Alexanders knew that Dhani joined the Rapids U-14 Academy team last year.

This summer, the Indiana Fire Juniors Academy identified David and Jude and invited both brothers to join the club's inaugural Under-12 Development Academy team. As fate would have it, Grand Park - Indiana Fire's home complex - was set to host the Central Regional Showcase in mid-October, and the Alexander's quickly learned that one of the teams set to travel and participate was Russell's team.

Nearly four years after they last kicked a ball on a dirt patch in an orphanage in eastern Africa, the kids were reunited on a much larger, and nicer, soccer field in Westfield, Indiana.

Shortly after his game, Dhani strolled toward the north goal area where the Alexander boys had begun kicking a ball around. David saw Dhani approach and kicked him the ball. With one touch Dhani chipped the ball back over David's head to Jude, and then approached the boys. As if they'd seen each other every weekend, the boys gave one anther a hug and began to reconnect.

Dhani was surprised in how tall Jude had grown, and the brothers were giddy with Dhani's fohawk. While obviously fluent in English, David and Dhani also said a few brief words in their native language. They posed for photos and made plans to meet at Dhani's hotel later in the day to catch up, and perhaps re-launch a bond that had started in another lifetime.