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A free kick to Sierra Leone

Cop, former footballer provide used AYSO gear to West African children.

December 14, 2011|By Lauren Williams

They seem like an unlikely pair: a Costa Mesa police detective and a former professional soccer star from Sierra Leone.

But a common purpose of supplying children in need with soccer gear unites Dana Potts and former Galaxy soccer star Abdul Sesay. They ship new and used soccer equipment to the coastal West African country.

Their goal, as part of SoCalKicks4Kids, is to help children who love the sport but lack the equipment to play the "beautiful game."

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Potts, who coached his daughter's team, noticed the quick turnover of soccer gear in AYSO, and thought the equipment could be put to a better purpose.

"'What do all these kids do with all this stuff when they're done?'" Potts asked himself. "It's a shame to see them just throw them away."

That's when his sister, working as a professor at Los Angeles Harbor College, introduced him to her student Sesay, a former Los Angeles Galaxy player who was sending school supplies back to his African home country.

Sesay told him, "'It's like Christmas. You just don't understand what it means.'"

Sesay said soccer draws children into schools.

"If you have a soccer program in your school, every child wants to go to your school," Sesay said in an interview. "It's a lifesaver. Because sometimes the only thing that brings us together [is soccer.] If there's fighting, people say 'take the fight to the field' and play soccer. … it makes a difference."

The two have been partnered about a month, and in that time Potts says 195 articles of gear for children 12 and under have been collected. That number isn't enough for the pair, who are hoping to gather even more cleats, shin guards, balls, shorts and anything people are willing to part with for the March or April shipment to Sierra Leone.

Those interested in making a donation can drop off supplies at the Laguna Hills Crossline Community Church, 23331 Moulton Parkway, and Soccer Garage, 21098 Bake Parkway, No. 106, in Lake Forest.

lauren.williams@latimes.com; Twitter: @lawilliams30

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