By Brett Marshell
When Hussein and Hassan Ismail arrived in the United States four years ago, they came to Garden City to join their father, who had arrived in America four years prior to search for a better life for him and his family.
Arriving in a strange country, unable to speak any English, the early transition into American democracy was not always the smoothest path. But the twin brothers, Hussein being the oldest, have made big strides in their English language skills, big strides in assimilating themselves into the melting pot of Garden City High School (23 different languages spoken) and into life in western Kansas.
Just in the first semester of their junior years, and third at GCHS, the Hussein twins also have made a big impact on the Buffalo boys’ soccer team, having just completed their first varsity season with the Buffs, who finished with a 12-6-0 record. Both play midfielder positions, with Hussein scoring one goal and Hassan garnering two goals.
“We like to help the team and playing with the Garden City group has been a lot of fun,” Hussein said, speaking on behalf of his brother, too. “We had some difficulties with the language at first, making it difficult for us to understand what the coaches wanted us to do. But it has become easier now.”
Hussein said that learning the styles of a coach is always an adjustment, but also trying to learn the language makes the challenge doubly tough.
“Each coach is different, and understanding what they want was hard,” Hussein said. “But the coaches have helped us a lot. We were very happy when we scored the goals, but it was just trying to part of the team and help the team win.”
Veteran GCHS soccer coach Joaquin Padilla said the twins had been a big addition to the team, especially considering they had not made the varsity or junior varsity roster as sophomores.
“We try to be as inclusive as we can with who plays,” Padilla said. “The contributions we have from them goes beyond soccer. We’re learning about their culture and we can learn so much.”
Born in Somalia and then having moved to Ethiopia, the twins lived in Addis Ababa, the capital city and largest city in Ethiopia. So adjusting to a smaller community like Garden City has also taken some time for the twins.
Both enjoy watching movies, with Hussein preferring action movies while Hassan likes comedies.
The favorite foods also vary between the two – Hussein liking goat meat and rice, Hassan favoring rice.
“We’re enjoying the quality of food we get here, but we’re also enjoying the education we’re receiving,” Hussein said. “There’s just a lot of opportunities for us.”
Hussein indicated that his favorite classes at GCHS are U.S. Government and English while Hassan enjoys his Writing class.
Having been born and then living in third-world countries, the twins are enjoying the freedoms that go with living in a democracy like the United States.
“There’s just so many more freedoms for us to have,” Hussein said.
They have an older brother who also lives in Garden City and is now attending Garden City Community College. Three sisters still live in Ethiopia. They have made numerous friends, through their soccer teammates to just regular students at the high school.
“We find that when you need help there’s somebody there who will help you,” Hussein said.
Having been part of a successful season on the pitch, the soccer speedsters are excited about their 2019 senior season.
“We hope to achieve better next year and hope to do that with our teammates,” Hussein said.
Padilla said that part of his joy in coaching the soccer team is the cultural differences amongst the players.
Citing players who have come from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Italy, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Padilla said they all come together and learn from each other.
“We’re gonna know their culture and their foods and how they see things,” Padilla said. “It’s like a big, mixed family.”
Padilla said the twins have an insatiable desire to learn, and thus have been easily coachable.
“They’ve worked very hard at understanding what we are trying to teach them,” Padilla said. “They know what we’ve wanted and they have made a big stride to play for us. They have good speed and quickness, and I think you’ll see even more good things from them next year.”
For now, though, it’s the continued daily evolution of being part of the community of Garden City High School for the native Somalian twins.
“They’ve been enjoyable to work with and are really involved with the students,” said Kim Steele, who heads up the ESL program at GCHS.