High school sports: Football helped immigrant athlete find his way in America
WEST VALLEY CITY — Magdi Hakim didn’t need to be able to speak English to understand that the little boys who kept talking to him wanted to be his friends.
“I spoke no English at all,” said Hakim, who immigrated to the United States from Egypt when he was 5. “I remember coming here, and I went to day care and then kindergarten. It was pretty scary, pretty tough. But I remember seeing different minorities, and I didn’t understand them, but they still talked to me.”
They made motions to sit near them, gestures to walk with them, and hand signs indicating they wanted to play with him, all of which transcended their cultural and language barriers.
“My mom had to work, so I was in a lot of after-school programs,” he said.
It was these same friends who talked him into attending a Little League summer football camp.
“I loved it,” he said. “I begged my mother to let me play. I begged a lot.” The problem was that the third-grader showed her the game on television and his mom, Susan Bumbe, thought it was far too violent for her son.
“I told her it would help me speak better, help me be more social, and I just wanted to try it,” said Hakim, now a senior at Granger High in West Valley City.
Finally, his mom relented, but she did so on one condition.
“I was told that if I got hurt, if I broke something, I had to stop,” he said.
Luckily, Hakim’s tendency to work hard has helped him stay healthy. And, while he may not have understood or believed the arguments he made to his mother as a third-grader, the senior wide receiver and cornerback now acknowledges that his involvement in sport did help him make friends and assimilate into American culture very quickly.
“It sure helped,” he said. “I wanted to be more close to (my friends), connected to them. If we had the same hobbies it helped. They were great kids, and they looked out for me.”
It also changed the kind of young man he’s turned out to be.
“It’s made me be more outdoors, more social, wanting to meet other people,” he said. “If I never played sports, I’d be more timid; I’d stay home; I’d be more shy.”
Granger head coach Cecil Thomas said Hakim is starting at cornerback and wide receiver for the Lancers after not even playing a full season last year. His family needed him to help out with some things last year, so he had to quit midseason.
“I think he’s a pretty special athlete,” said Thomas. “He hasn’t tapped into his ability. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s not your typical skill kid. He grinds and he works hard. He’s just a really good kid all the way around. “
Hakim is making the most of his opportunities this season, and Thomas hopes it pays off for him.
“He’s a great, great kid,” said Thomas. “I hope there is an opportunity for him to go somewhere. He’s a very bright kid, a very smart kid. Academics won’t be an issue.”
Thomas said Hakim is still finding out what he’s capable of athletically, and at times he shows some incredible potential.
“He really shows some athletic moves and you just go, ‘Wow!’ ” Thomas said. “He just takes the ball out of the sky. He does some really good things.”
Bumbe brought her children to the U.S. for the same reason millions have adopted America as home.
“We wanted a better future,” said Hakim. “There were some wars and a lot of corruption in Cairo.”
The family was supposed to go to England but somehow ended up in Utah. Hakim is grateful that things worked out the way they did because he’s hoping football might help him do more than enjoy his senior year.
“I just really want to go to college,” he said. “I’d be the first in my family to go.”
Thomas said he believes Hakim has the ability to play at the 1-AA level, and he certainly possesses the work ethic.
“He’s just a real positive kid,” said Thomas. “His greatest strength is his ability to work; he’s a grinder. He doesn’t complain about anything. Whatever you put in front of him, he does.”