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Michael Lahoud returns to Philly, honored by Starfinder Foundation for community efforts



Thursday night in Manayunk marked a significant moment for both a local non-profit organization and a former Philadelphia Union player now-turned broadcaster. Michael Lahoud was honored during an intimate event at Starfinder Foundation’s newly renovated location on Main St. Lahoud earned the Community Visionary Leader Award alongside Dr. Cydney Pennick who earned the Community Legacy Award. Pennick, is a 2015 graduate of Starfinder Foundation’s Senior Leaders program and is a doctor of physical therapy while continuing to serve as a community advocate.

You may have heard of Starfinder before thanks to former Union right back Ray Gaddis and his honorary night with the foundation back in 2021. Most of you are familiar with Lahoud as well. Thursday night was an opportunity to combine local soccer fans with like-minded community advocates in hopes of inspiring others in the area to join in on Starfinder’s mission to combine soccer with mentorship and youth development not only in the Manayunk area but beyond.

Lahoud lamented the importance of education and opportunity for the younger generations during his acceptance speech. Lahoud, born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and transplanted to the United States alone at age 6, recognizes the importance of providing children with a chance to receive an education and an opportunity to maximize one’s life journey.

“I was on the train here and I was thinking about what does tonight mean,” said Lahoud. “The word ‘journey.’ Life is a journey. And my journey has taken me all around the world. From Sierra Leone to the States, back to Sierra Leone, and back to the states. And it takes me here tonight.”

Among others in attendance Thursday night was Union goal-scoring legend Sebastian Le Toux. Lahoud took a brief moment to recognize Seba and labeled Le Toux the greatest Union player of all-time stating that he is the reason the club exists as it does today. But Lahoud quickly jumped back on point by continuing to speak on the significant impacts that education can have on young minds.

“I was a once a kid looking for an opportunity. And the greatest thing anyone has ever given me was a chance,” said Lahoud. “A chance to live life’s dreams. A chance to have an education. Soccer was always my way out but education was my meaning. Education is what opened doors. The greatest gift that I was given was a chance to be a college graduate. And through that, I was able to envision my dream as a professional soccer player.”

Lahoud’s pro career spanned from 2009 to 2015. He was selected 9th overall in the MLS SuperDraft and suited up for Chivas USA, Philadelphia Union, FC Cincinnati and San Antonio FC during his career. He also earned international call-ups for his home country of Sierra Leone, earning four total caps.

But Lahoud’s most impactful moments continue to occur off the soccer pitch and in the community.

One night in 2010 following a match against Seattle Sounders in Seattle, Lahoud had a chance encounter with Cindy Nofziger, the Founder and current Executive Director of Schools for Salone. Cindy challenged Lahoud with a simple yet profound question “Do you want to change the world?”

Lahoud was eager to make his mark on the world, an opportunity he thought he would never have or be worthy of until that night.

“That is one of the most amazing achievements in my entire life,” said Lahoud of the 5-year journey he had with Schools for Salone. “We went from serving 50 students to serving over 200 students in my home country and where I grew up in Freetown.”

Lahoud’s journey with Schools for Salone led him back to Sierra Leone for the first time in 20-years. They were able to build schools, create pathways for Sierre Leonean children (most importantly young girls) to education, and make it sustainable. He was also able to reconnect with his grandmother, the same incredible woman who helped him flee his home country at age 6 due to civil war tearing apart the country. It was a profound moment for Lahoud and one he will never forget.

However, Philadelphia has also left a lasting impact on Lahoud. He spent the better part of 5 years with the club and the city. And it left its mark.

“But Philadelphia always left a marker on me,” said Lahoud. “Philadelphia is the most loyal place in the entire world. Thing I always took with me from Philadelphia is that Philadelphia shows up, no matter what the cause, no matter what the situation is… Without you, Starfinder does not do what it does.”

Lahoud, who arrived in this country as a small child from West Africa, was provided a chance.

“That chance led me to meet my beautiful wife. It led me to have the career I had as a soccer player and has led me to have a career that I am just beginning as a broadcaster. My life’s mission is that if someone can take a chance on me and lead me to the path that I’m on, what can you do by taking a chance on them: the next generation?”

What can we all do to help the next generation? It’s a great question to end on…

If you’re interested in learning more about the Starfinder Foundation or contributing donations or your time volunteering, please check out their website at:

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