SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Bay Area soccer fans were thrilled to see Danville-born Chris Wondolowski crack the Team USA roster for World Cup 2014 in Brazil, but the San Jose Earthquakes star is perhaps even more popular in the Lawton, Oklahoma area – home of Kiowa Nation.
The former Major League Soccer MVP was raised in the East Bay, but strongly identifies with the tribe of his Native American ancestors in the Plains.
“It’s through my mom’s side, and my grandpa is still very active,” Wondolosdki said during a U.S. Soccer interview. “It’s my heritage. I love it.”
When he was 13, Wodolowski officially joined the tribe, which numbers about 12,000, taking the name “Bau Daigh,” meaning “warrior coming over the hill.” He also had the name tattooed on his chest.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 13, 2014
“Wondo” – as soccer fans know him – has become the most prolific goal scorer in San Jose Earthquakes history since joining the team in 2009, and the resulting name recognition has allowed him to give back to the community that supported him during his youth. The striker is a spokesman for Nike’s N7 Fund, which strives to elevate youth sports among Native American tribes. He talked about the pride he feels about being part of Kiowa Nation during a recent interview:
Now it appears that the Kiowa are returning the warm feelings, with many nation members – including Wondolowski’s grandfather – planning on attending a viewing party Sunday to watch team USA take on Portugal, according to Keith Vazquez, who hosts a weekly radio show for the Kiowa. He says the popularity of soccer has shot up in the community as Wondolowski has risen to fame.
“(Native American pro golfer and N7 spokesman) Notah Begay has even donated soccer balls so that kids can play,” said Vazquez.
Wondolowski did not get the nod to start the opening game versus Ghana. Kiowa Nation and the Earthquakes faithful will be watching anxiously for his first appearance on the World Cup stage.