Photo Credit: Kent Auf Der Heide
The West African country of Guinea is known for its rich deposits of gold and diamonds. In his first season with Swope Park Rangers, Guinean forward Hadji Barry is proving to be a valuable treasure himself.
Barry was born and raised in Guinea, the youngest of seven siblings. “It was great. It means I am the baby. I always tell my siblings I’m the most loved ones,” he shares. “Having those brothers and sisters to look up to, they’ve guided me even though we haven’t been together the last few years. Thanks to the phone calls and technology, we still get to see each other. I wouldn’t be here without them.” Two of his brothers and one his sisters live in France (Hadji’s second choice in the World Cup, behind Brazil), while his other two sisters and one brother still live in Guinea. The youngest Barry did not have a chance to return to his native country from 2006 to 2016, but he did get a chance to return the last two years.
Those two years were also his first as a professional and he spent them with Orlando City and Orlando City B. This offseason, he departed the Sunshine State, joining Swope Park. Barry has made a big impact for Sporting Kansas City’s USL affiliate, currently with five goals and four assists. Combining with the USL’s leading scorer Kharlton Belmar, Barry and Swope Park exploded out of the gate. Describing his chemistry with Belmar, he says, “It just happened. We just clicked on the field. Belmar’s a very good player, fast, strong, and can finish the ball. You can see he’s leading the league in scoring and having him out there is another weapon. I think all of my assists have gone to him”
Swope Park will rely on Barry and Belmar to get back to the USL Cup. The club has made it to the title game the past two seasons, but they’ve dropped both matches. When asked what it will take to get back to the championship match, Barry answers, “A lot of hard work. We know how the last few years have been going. We’re trying to get over that hump. We can’t just put our focus into that. There are so many things we need to do to get to that point. Teams are getting better in this league. We also got better, so hopefully we can get to that point and get over the hump.”
Currently sitting fifth in the USL’s Western Conference, Swope Park is on track for another playoff berth. With their new star from Guinea leading an explosive attack, this season could end with a crown jewel: the USL Cup trophy.