An Athlete Making a Difference

An inspiring profile of Team Darfur athlete Emanuel Neto from the Stony Brook Independent:

Growing up in Angola, Emanuel Neto can remember the gruesome images that had him and his family living in fear. A fear that one day a soldier might force you to cook and eat your own child. It’s these experiences that have Emanuel Neto appreciating the very air he breathes.

Neto, a 23 year-old senior at Stony Brook University, has lived a life that very few college students have, and seen things that most Americans can not even begin to imagine. Neto’s upbringing has made him sensitive towards the war and genocide in Darfur, a situation that a lot of Americans fail to recognize.

“People will only pay attention when something happens and it involves the integrity of American values,” says Neto. “Not enough is done to raise awareness about what is going on.” Neto’s mother had a vision of her child one day studying in the states, playing basketball and using his image to help people. Neto has used his image as a college athlete and member of the Angolan National Basketball team to help raise such awareness.

Neto is a member of Team Darfur, a coalition of athletes dedicated in helping to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur. In the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Neto and his fellow athletes wanted to make people aware of how countries, China included, were doing nothing to stop the slaughter in Darfur. Neto, was invited to live out one of his dreams and participate in the games for his native Angola, but still realized the importance of the crisis. “I know I can speak out and make someone’s life better,” said Neto.

In April of 2008, Neto and other members of Team Darfur traveled to San Franciso to join a protest along the route where the Olympic torch would be carried. Neto remembers vividly how protestors rushed the bus that held the torch carriers and how they laid themselves on the ground, just inches from the bus tires. “It was crazy, just really, really crazy,” explains Neto. “They were willing to die.” Neto loved the trip, especially being able to stand in front of a crowd of thousands of people and speak about something he believed strongly in. However, there were consequences that Neto didn’t anticipate.

“When it comes to the red, black and yellow, I’m the man,” said Neto when talking about the immense sense of pride he gets from representing his home country in the sport of basketball. Neto was very excited for the chance to play in the Olympics and spent the spring and summer months working out in preparation. However, Neto was beginning to worry why he hadn’t heard back from anyone in Angola. “I couldn’t get any answers. I called and called and sent emails,” explained Neto. “I knew by then something was wrong.”

Neto eventually learned from a friend in Angola that he would not be able to play for his team because he had been banned from the country of China. The Chinese government had gotten word of Neto’s involvement with team Darfur and the protest in San Francisco and decided they did not want him to play in the Beijing games. Although he was disappointed, Neto wasn’t regretful. “As much as it sucks, as bad as I wanted to be there, if you asked me to do it again, I would very likely do it again,” said Neto. Neto was never for boycotting the Olympics, but he wasn’t about to stop expressing how he felt…

“There’s a lot of shit that goes on the world,” says Neto. “I wish I was superman and could change a lot of the stuff but I can’t. I can only do as much as my hands can reach, and that’s exactly what I do. When it comes to helping others, I’m never going to say no, never ever.”

An inspiring profile of Team Darfur athlete Emanuel Neto from the Stony Brook Independent:

Growing up in Angola, Emanuel Neto can remember the gruesome images that had him and his family living in fear. A fear that one day a soldier might force you to cook and eat your own child. It’s these experiences that have Emanuel Neto appreciating the very air he breathes.

Neto, a 23 year-old senior at Stony Brook University, has lived a life that very few college students have, and seen things that most Americans can not even begin to imagine. Neto’s upbringing has made him sensitive towards the war and genocide in Darfur, a situation that a lot of Americans fail to recognize.

“People will only pay attention when something happens and it involves the integrity of American values,” says Neto. “Not enough is done to raise awareness about what is going on.” Neto’s mother had a vision of her child one day studying in the states, playing basketball and using his image to help people. Neto has used his image as a college athlete and member of the Angolan National Basketball team to help raise such awareness.

Neto is a member of Team Darfur, a coalition of athletes dedicated in helping to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur. In the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Neto and his fellow athletes wanted to make people aware of how countries, China included, were doing nothing to stop the slaughter in Darfur. Neto, was invited to live out one of his dreams and participate in the games for his native Angola, but still realized the importance of the crisis. “I know I can speak out and make someone’s life better,” said Neto.

In April of 2008, Neto and other members of Team Darfur traveled to San Franciso to join a protest along the route where the Olympic torch would be carried. Neto remembers vividly how protestors rushed the bus that held the torch carriers and how they laid themselves on the ground, just inches from the bus tires. “It was crazy, just really, really crazy,” explains Neto. “They were willing to die.” Neto loved the trip, especially being able to stand in front of a crowd of thousands of people and speak about something he believed strongly in. However, there were consequences that Neto didn’t anticipate.

“When it comes to the red, black and yellow, I’m the man,” said Neto when talking about the immense sense of pride he gets from representing his home country in the sport of basketball. Neto was very excited for the chance to play in the Olympics and spent the spring and summer months working out in preparation. However, Neto was beginning to worry why he hadn’t heard back from anyone in Angola. “I couldn’t get any answers. I called and called and sent emails,” explained Neto. “I knew by then something was wrong.”

Neto eventually learned from a friend in Angola that he would not be able to play for his team because he had been banned from the country of China. The Chinese government had gotten word of Neto’s involvement with team Darfur and the protest in San Francisco and decided they did not want him to play in the Beijing games. Although he was disappointed, Neto wasn’t regretful. “As much as it sucks, as bad as I wanted to be there, if you asked me to do it again, I would very likely do it again,” said Neto. Neto was never for boycotting the Olympics, but he wasn’t about to stop expressing how he felt…

“There’s a lot of shit that goes on the world,” says Neto. “I wish I was superman and could change a lot of the stuff but I can’t. I can only do as much as my hands can reach, and that’s exactly what I do. When it comes to helping others, I’m never going to say no, never ever.”