Fuad Ibrahim "Ibee"

Fuad Ibrahim “Ibee”

(CNN) — Life had not quite worked out the way Fuad Ibrahim had planned.

A few years ago the whole world was laid out at the 21-year-old American striker’s feet. Ibee, as he is known by his coaches and teammates, was considered one of the most naturally talented players ever to emerge in U.S. soccer.

He was quickly brought into the national team set up, playing in every game at the Under-17 World Cup finals. At the age of 16 he was the second youngest player ever to be drafted into the MLS. Perhaps prophetically, the youngest was Freddy Adu, a name that has become a euphemism for talent unfulfilled.

Luck, nerve, injury, temperament: no one could explain Ibee’s decline after being called up to the U.S. Under-20 squad. But decline he did as he went from Dallas to Toronto and then to his hometown club, the Minnesota Stars in the NASL — the second tier of U.S. soccer. The decline appeared terminal when he was released at the end of last season..

And then out of the blue an email arrived from the country of his birth — Ethiopia.

“It said that Ethiopia would like to invite me to play for the national team,” Ibee told CNN, speaking from his hotel room in the capital Addis Ababa.

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