Fighting For Family

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Fighting For Family

Jack Bacon, Reporter

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It was four in the morning when Maisha Sila’s mother woke him. She sat him and his siblings down and told them the news: their uncle had passed away.

“And I was like, wait what?” said Sila. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

The news was shocking. Sila had spoken to his uncle (who won’t be named in this article) just the night before, and he had seemed in good health. He had called because he was going to have surgery that night for a problem with the tissue in his abdomen. Sila says he knew that it would be a major surgery, but that no one, including his uncle, had doubted that the operation would be successful. Now, he was gone.

“I didn’t know what to think,” said Sila, “He was the one who was always there for us. He was like the father to us.”

Sila had always been close with his uncle. He taught him how to play soccer and how to drive. When Sila’s family built their house, his uncle was there to help.

One memory that Sila shares is of a family trip with his uncle. Busy with work and trying to get settled into their new home in Iowa City, Sila’s mom told the kids that they wouldn’t be able to go on their traditional family trip that summer. When his uncle heard, he dropped everything and made the six hour drive from Michigan to take them on vacation. Later, they learned that he hadn’t been able to get permission from his boss to take the time off, and he was fired for missing work. To Sila, the memory was a reminder of his uncle’s free spirit and love for his family.

“That was kind of funny,” he said, “But at the same time he showed us who he really was and how much he cared about us, which was just so special because he put us first.”

His uncle’s passing put Sila in a difficult position. Still emotionally raw from the loss, Sila had a big football game against Dubuque Hempstead coming up in two days. He missed practices that week due to his emotional state, and even worried about his ability to get through the game.

“In my mind I was so afraid that I could just breakdown or not be able to leave it all on the field.”

To make matters worse, the funeral was scheduled for that Saturday. If Sila went to the game he wouldn’t be able to attend. Still, City had little depth at his position of corner back, and he knew the team was counting him if they were going to have a chance.

He says that decision was difficult, but that he was inspired to play by NBA star Isaiah Thomas, who put up 33 points for the Boston Celtics in a playoff game the day after the death of his sister.

Sila says he believes his uncle would have wanted him to play, and that he dedicated that week to his memory.

“That game was all him. Every play of that game I said his name,” said Sila. “You’ve always got to have something that’s going to motivate you… I just told myself, ‘you’ve got to get a pick, you’ve got to get a pick,’ every play.”

It paid off. Sila had one of his best games against Hempstead, knocking down key passes and grabbing a crucial interception in the fourth quarter. Garrett Rosenow, who played on the line for City this year, says the pick was critical to the Little Hawks’ big military appreciation night win.

“That pick was huge,” said Rosenow. “It gave us another chances to score and important momentum in a game that ended 23-22.” City defeated Hempstead that week thanks in large part to an outstanding defensive effort lead by Sila’s big plays. Sila says that while the decision to play was difficult, he knows he made the right choice.

“I wound up feeling good that game. We won that game, I got a pick, I made some really good tackles… That game was kind of therapeutic, and it just felt good to get the win.”

Since winning the Hempstead game in week four, Sila has gone on to have a great Junior season. He’s picked up more great interceptions and developed into a key part of the City High defense. His play making ability and energetic leadership style are sure to make him a key member of the team next season.

Stories of athletes like Sila and Isiah Thomas playing through tremendous grief are reminders of the power of sports to showcase and bring out the best in people.  Sila says that the experience has helped him to be a better teammate and person, and that he’s learned a lesson about responding to adversity.

“It’s your actions that will push you to become a young man,” says Sila. “Make decisions and staying faithful to the decisions you make.”