You can’t talk about the history of D.C. United without mentioning Tony Sanneh in the same breath.
Sanneh joined D.C. United halfway through the inaugural MLS season, leading the club to consecutive MLS Cups in 1996 and 1997, as well as the 1996 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters’ Shield.
His tenure with the Black-and-Red was short, but he would continue to be a fan-favorite as a mainstay with the U.S. Men’s National Team and one of the first African Americans to play in the German top-flight.
After the 1998 season, Sanneh signed with Bundesliga club Hertha BSC, where he made 31 appearances including several in the UEFA Champions League.
He went on to anchor the backline of FC Nürnberg, starting almost every game he was available for between 2001 and 2004 and helping the club to promotion after a brief stint in the second division.
His pedigree as a competitor and ability to play multiple positions made him a natural fit in Bruce Arena’s national team squad. Sanneh was called up for the 2002 FIFA World Cup where he played every minute of every game for the Red, White and Blue.
He finished his national team career as a CONCACAF Gold Cup champion and with 43 caps to his name.
But when asked about his illustrious career abroad and with the national team, Sanneh never fails to mention how integral his time in Black-and-Red was to his whole career.
“I played on a lot of teams, I played on Champions League teams, I played in Europe, I played on the national team—that D.C. United team may have been the best team I’ve ever been on,” Sanneh said in an interview with Extratime.
A champion on and off the pitch, Tony Sanneh’s name has become as synonymous with his humanitarian efforts as his contributions to the game.
In 2003, he established The Sanneh Foundation to create positive social change for youth. Following his retirement from professional soccer in 2010, he became the full-time President and CEO of The Sanneh Foundation, which has brought youth academic mentorship, food banks, and free athletic programs to his native Twin Cities for over two decades now.
Throughout his career, Sanneh was known for making everyone around him better. He led the way in establishing the league’s first dynasty in D.C. and he continues to lead the way as a shining example for the next generation.
Throughout Black History Month, the club will be shining a light on a number of players who have played an instrumental role in helping grow the game in the United States across club-owned properties.
To learn about the community work D.C. United will be doing during Black History Month and ways that you can get involved, visit dcunited.com/community.