You can't tell it from his wide, toothy smile, or the unbridled optimism in his voice, but Fredlin "Fredinho" Mompremier has had a long, challenging road to professional soccer.
The Tulsa Roughnecks midfielder grew up in Haiti, where his family was skeptical of his chances of breaking into the sport. Mompremier (pronounced MOM-pre-mare for you non-francophones) used to travel to other cities to play at a young age, even spending months away for a national team camp when he as 13.
His father, Franck, died of a heart attack caused by diabetes when a young Fredlin was 16.
"When he died, I didn’t want to stay in Haiti anymore," Mompremier said. "I wanted to come here to play football, that’s all."
Mompremier moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a visa. His father had had a green card and was in the process of getting the family to move to the United States. Mompremier stayed with a distant cousin; however, throughout high school, he recalls spending most nights and mornings taking care of himself.
He also did not know a word of English when he arrived in Florida. He speaks Creole as his primary language.
"I was tired of not seeing my family," Mompremier said. "Sometimes, you wake up and you cry and you miss your family. But you were at that place for a reason. The only thing I had in my mind was like, I’m doing this because I love what I’m doing and I want to make my family proud one day and that’s what got me going."
He eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Tampa to play college soccer. He's four classes away from completing his sports management degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Mompremier also represented Haiti in the U20 FIFA Tournament in 2014.
He leaned on his mother, Marie, during this time of change. She still lives in Haiti; Mompremier says she might eventually move to to the U.S. They try to FaceTime each other every week.
"I always go to church like my mom always told me every Sunday," Mompremier said. "She always calls me, you know, to go to Church and ‘pray with me’ and all that so we stay connected in that. I know it’s not easy, but we’re still doing things the way I used to do like when I was a kid."
In January, the Roughnecks signed Mompremier to a contract. He became a U.S. citizen in April. He said he's thankful for both those opportunities. However, he still has more in mind for his soccer career.
"My biggest goal is to play on the biggest stage, one of the best clubs in the world, like in Europe," Mompremier said. "Why not?"
If he could endure the road that led to Tulsa, he can make it just a little bit further.
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