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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 25, 2008

Campagnano and Nyuma: A brother from another motherland

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– Sahr Nyuma had no intentions of playing soccer when he moved to Guilderland from the Republic of Sierra Leone in 2005. Brothers Tony and Frank Campagnano gave him inspiration to start kicking the ball again.

“I played soccer when I grew up in West Africa, but I stopped playing because it was too demanding,” said Nyuma, leading scorer for the Dutchmen, Section II champions this year. “”I had no plans of playing the sport in America. But I saw Tony and his brother Frank and they were so good. I decided to join them.”

“I heard that this guy was coming to our school from Africa and he might play soccer,” said Tony Campagnano, the Section II Most Valuable Player. “We had this little scrimmage going on one day and Nyuma took me out. I thought to myself, ‘Who is this kid?’”

About four years later, Nyuma and Campagnano were leading the offense for the Dutchmen varsity soccer team. The squad went undefeated this season and captured the Class AA crown.

In the middle of the season, Nyuma faced a decision of epic proportions, when the teammate who had welcomed him to America offered him a home.

Giving a teammate a home

Sahr Nyuma, along with his parents, Susan and Justin Nyuma, had joined family in Guilderland in 2005. Moving from West Africa to America was a tough transition.

“I had my whole life in Africa and I left that all behind,” said Nyuma. “I had to deal with the language barrier and a whole different culture. I’m still not used to it. I was also nervous about the possibility of racism because I was black.”

Nyuma was surprised by how nice Campagnano was at first. “He was way too nice,” said Nyuma. “He took me in and showed me the American way of life.”

“It’s really tough to come from another country,” said Campagnano. “I didn’t want it to be too hard for him, so I paid attention to what he was doing. I really wanted him to play soccer so he wouldn’t be too bored.”

In the middle of this year’s soccer season, with Nyuma’s mother in Sierra Leone, his father told him that they would be moving to Atlanta. Nyuma was in his senior year at Guilderland and in the midst of a hot soccer season.

“My parents had lost grip of the house because of the slumping economy,” Nyuma said. “I had an idea that we were going to move eventually but I didn’t think it would be that soon. I couldn’t believe it.”

Nyuma had everything to lose and he didn’t want to leave Guilderland. Campagnano decided to take action.

“I asked my parents if Sahr could stay with us because they already knew him pretty well,” Campagnano said. “He had already established himself around here. Changing spots would be too difficult.”

The Campagnano family agreed, but Nyuma’s dad wasn’t happy with the decision, he said. “I literally had to get down on my knees and beg to stay in town,” said Nyuma. “I love my parents, but Guilderland is where I had to stay.”

“I already knew Sahr pretty well and Tony really took the responsibility on and off the field,” said Maurizio Campagnano, Tony’s dad. “The confidence of the team rose to higher levels after we gave him a home. He got a second chance at life.”

Nyuma told The Enterprise that Maurizio is a solid father figure and Mary Campagnano, Tony’s mom, is the one you wish for. “I miss my parents a lot, but I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given,” he said.

Guilderland Head Coach Mike Kinnally and Assistant Coach Arn Armstrong were also an important part of Nyuma’s stay. “They talked to both of our parents about the positives of Sahr staying,” said Tony Campagnano. “I think it all made sense after that.”

The Campagnanos don’t ever ask Nyuma to do chores, but he does them anyway. “I’m helpful by nature and I feel like I should because they give me a roof,” Nyuma said.

“Sahr has made me a better person, more responsible,” said Campagnano. “Like the other day, he got up in the morning and started shoveling the driveway. He made me feel lazy because I was lying in bed.”

“The season was blessed”

With Nyuma at the Campagnanos, the Dutchmen soccer team didn’t have to deal with the effects of losing a star player and the team got an extra boost of momentum and spirit. But spirit was present even before the season started.

Campagnano and Nyuma’s birthdays are two days apart, Sept. 5 and 7. Mary Campagnano decided to give them brand-new cleats for a gift. Nyuma and Campagnano brought the shoes to Nyuma’s grandmother, Ngardi.

“Nyuma’s grandmother is really Catholic and she has some Holy Water from Italy,” Campagnano said. “She placed the cleats down and blessed them with the water. She blessed our season.”

Nyuma led the team in scoring and the Dutchmen went undefeated. “Ngardi kept saying all these things about the team and most of it ended up happening,” said Nyuma. “It was totally crazy.”

“We had some real miracles this year for sure,” said Campagnano. “We always came back when we were down. It was something bigger than us.”

Nyuma’s father had a heart attack in Atlanta the same day Guilderland was playing Shaker in the sectional semi-finals. “I didn’t think I could handle playing under those circumstances,” said Nyuma. “But Coach Armstrong inspired me to go out and play for my father.”

With the Dutchmen down one point with two minutes to go, an emotional Nyuma tipped one in on the goal line to send the game into overtime. Nyuma scored again in the extra period to seal the game.

“Sahr was a man possessed in that game,” Campagnano said. “I’ll never forget that, everyone rushing the field to celebrate.”

“I just thought of my dad and his health; I did it for him,” said Nyuma. “We couldn’t lose, so I did what I had to.”

Nyuma’s father made a full recovery.

Bright future

Tony Campagnano and Sahr Nyuma’s Guilderland soccer days may be over, but they ended on a high note for the two soccer stars.

Nyuma and Campagnano attended the Section II awards banquet on Dec. 14 in Saratoga. Nyuma received Section II All-Star honors and was named to the Suburban Council First Team.

Campagnano was Class AA Player of the Year, was named to the Suburban Council First Team, was named Section II Most Valuable Player, was named to the Section II First Team, and was named a Section II All-Star. He was also named to the All State First Team and All Region First Team, and was given All-America honors. Campagnano will receive his All-America honors on Jan. 17 in St. Louis.

“We wouldn’t have won these awards without each other and our whole team,” said Campagnano. “If it was up to me, the whole team would be All American.”

Campagnano says that Nyuma will always be part of the family, even after they separate for college. “He’ll be at the family reunions,” he said.

“I think our soccer season and all the events brought our school together,” said Nyuma. “We are forever changed.”

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