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Originally published January 31, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Page modified January 31, 2014 at 9:26 PM

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Immigrants and their families become Seahawks fans

Seahawks fans know that love for the Seattle team and football can help foster unity among communities and even within an entire city. For some immigrants to Washington, this is no less true.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Iman Ibrahim’s family rearranged the furniture to watch the NFC Championship Game and had a large selection of food, including chips, soda and chicken and rice. Many of Ibrahim’s relatives were there and they really got into the game, which was won by the Seahawks over the San Francisco 49ers.

“My mother finally got into it and was like panicking at some points, cheering at other points,” Ibrahim said.

“Half of the time we’re explaining it, but either way we’re all enjoying it,” Ibrahim said, telling how she and her cousin made sense of the game for the rest of her family.

Ibrahim, 23, and one of her cousins are the big football fans in the family, but some of her family members have gotten into the Seahawks since the last game.

Ibrahim’s mother immigrated to the United States from Eritrea in 1990 and was pregnant with Ibrahim at the time. After staying in California for a few years, the family moved to Washington. Most of Ibrahim’s family now lives in Bellevue, and many are Eritrean immigrants.

Most Seahawks fans know that love for the Seattle team and football can help foster unity among communities and even within an entire city. For some immigrants to Washington, this is no less true.

From first-generation immigrants who came to the United States decades ago, to the children of immigrants born in the U.S., a passion for the Seahawks, who will play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday, grows as they get accustomed to what they call home.

Ibrahim said it was hilarious during the NFC title game to see her mother “actually enjoy the game and act like a true fan.”

Ibrahim started liking football during her freshman year of high school.

“Everybody else thought football meant soccer,” she laughed, referring to some of her family.

Egyptian immigrant fan of Seahawks, fantasy football

Ramy Gewida, 22, immigrated to the United States from Egypt with a green card in 2008 because he was accepted into the University of Washington. He said he is now a citizen.

Growing up in Egypt, he played soccer, tennis and judo. He knew some basics about American football from his cousins from the United States who visited him.

“They would mention it and sometimes bring me gifts like a football,” Gewida said.

Gewida learned more about the Seahawks from Egyptian friends at a Lynnwood church. They would play football and watch games together.

He also started participating in fantasy football last year, using three Seahawks players: Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin.

Next season, he said, his first choice for fantasy football will probably be Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Gewida said he is becoming a bigger fan of the Seahawks because of how much they are achieving. He also has more time to follow the team now that he has graduated.

“I’m becoming a big fan, for sure,” Gewida said.

Gewida said he hopes to go to a Seahawks game next season.

Seahawks have a new fan from Ethiopia

It doesn’t take long to become a Seahawks fan.

Yohanes Getu, originally from Ethiopia, immigrated to Seattle about three months ago.

He’s already a Seahawks fan after watching games on television. He’ll be watching the Super Bowl.

“I like their organization, they’re very organized,” he said, adding that they’re also very fast.

Local broadcaster learned about football in Mexico

Francisco Diaz works for Casa Latina, an agency that provides resources to Latino immigrants, and is a local sports broadcaster in Seattle. He was no stranger to football before moving to Seattle.

Known as “Paco,” Diaz hails from Mexico City and said he has liked sports his entire life.

While growing up in Mexico, he watched American football games on television, and his friends liked football. Diaz also played a version of flag football in the streets when he was young.

After he got to Seattle in 2004, he had the chance to go to a Seahawks game.

That was “like a dream,” Diaz said. He could attend exhibition NFL games in Mexico, he said, but, “It’s not the same.”

The tailgate experience was new for him, and postgame celebrations were also notable.

“I think fans of Seahawks, they are very passionate about the team,” Diaz said.

Now — through his sports radio show for ESPN Deportes Seattle — Diaz has more access to the team and will be going to the Super Bowl.

“I never really think that I could have this kind of opportunity,” he said.

Even after moving away, fans keep rooting for Seahawks

As many Seahawks fans know, once a fan, always a fan. Even for older immigrants who have left Washington, their love for the Seahawks still burns bright.

That’s true for Peter Ecksteen, who lives in California but previously lived in Washington. He traveled from South Africa to Canada, where he recorded music with his band. About 26 years ago, they moved to the United States to perform gospel music for churches.

“The NFL was like a whole foreign thing for me to learn,” he said. “But I always loved sports because I played sports.”

Besides seeing some American football in the movies in South Africa, he started to hear more about the game and the Seahawks when he lived in Vancouver, B.C., and Washington.

For Ecksteen, this year brings two happy occasions: The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl and he became a U.S. citizen in January.

“It’s like two highs in my life. I get to celebrate something that’s so important for my life and for my family’s life, and in the same way, I also get to celebrate the sport and the team that I love,” Ecksteen said. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to start the year.”

Safiya Merchant: smerchant@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2299



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