Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America wrote a nice feature on Maurice Edu for us over at SI.com. His point about Edu being one of the few top draft picks to produce is well taken - there are more busts than anything with that first overall pick.
I've talked to Maurice a few times, both over the phone (on draft day in 2007) and in person (most recently at US camp here in Carson). But I actually met his mom first, way before I ever talked to Maurice. I didn't know it was his mom, and it was just a fluke the way it turned out with her son.
I was covering a high school football game out in the beautiful city of Rialto a few years back (I use that adjective loosely, by the way). Anyway, at the time I was trying to find some people from the African nations that made it to the World Cup - Angola, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia to be precise. There were a few from Ghana I'd run across and I was working on a story that ultimately never materialized because apparently there aren't any Angolans in the IE. Who knew?
But I had hopes then and I figured if I could find some sort of African market that I might find some people there. Certain ethnic markets, especially the little mom-and-pop stores, tend to draw people from a certain ethnic group. I had some success with a store called "West Africa Market" or something in Riverside so I was hoping to find some similar markets in San Bernardino.
Well, at this game I covered one of the ladies who was manning the entrance had the last name of Edu. I figured that was an African last name. She said something to the lady next to her and she spoke with an accent. Put two and two together and...
"Hello. I know this sounds like a strange question but you wouldn't happen to be from Africa, would you?"
I wouldn't have asked her that if I wasn't 95 percent sure of the answer. She smiled, then laughed and then I followed up with...
"See, I was hoping you knew of a local African market. I'm trying to find some people from Ivory Coast, Togo and Angola and I was hoping to find a West African market or something."
She actually helped me out quite a bit. She knew of a place right there in Rialto that was owned by a couple from Liberia (dammit, why couldn't they have qualified?!?). But, Mrs. Edu warned, I probably wasn't going to find those countries represented quite as easily as others, such as her native Nigeria.
"Yes, well, Nigeria would have made it a lot easier on me had they qualified. Instead I got stuck with Angola!"
She said she never met anyone from Angola or Togo here (great, I thought) but I should look anyway.
Then she told me that her son plays soccer. I hear that a lot, actually. My so-and-so plays soccer and he's/she's so good! Mrs. Edu said her son is from Fontana and went to Etiwanda High School and then to Maryland, and that he even scored a big goal right here, at that stadium out by Long Beach.
I've never told Maurice that story, though I suppose I will at some point. But every time I see him I ask him how his mom's doing. The Edus are a pretty tight bunch.