Meet Benaiah Hanson, Loudon’s rising soccer star

  • Loudon’s Benaiah Hanson is on the fast track to soccer stardom. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 8/18/2020 10:38:04 AM

Loudon is known for its New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR racing. Someday it may also be known as the home of Benaiah Hanson.

Since he’s a 14-year-old soccer player and not a decades-old racing institution, you probably haven’t heard of him. Until now.

Hanson showed signs of brilliance playing for the U13 and U14 teams in the New England Revolution Academy. After COVID-19 shut down the Revolution Academy, Hanson and his family kept chasing the soccer dream to Texas, where he’s currently playing for the Dallas Texans U15 Boys Academy of the Elite Clubs National League.

Hanson’s story feels far from done, but the chapters that have been written are already inspiring.

Rwanda calls

The story starts in Africa in 2006 at the Home of Hope Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. That’s where Pete and Heidi Hanson found baby Benaiah.

The Hansons were Concord High graduates, Class of ’89, although they didn’t really know each other then. Pete was a quarterback and defensive back for the Crimson Tide football team and later played at Plymouth State. Heidi was also a sports enthusiast who went to Endicott College. Their paths crossed at a karaoke night at Concord’s Szechaun Garden Restaurant during Thanksgiving weekend of 1999. They soon wed and in 2000 welcomed their first child, Asia Grace Hanson.

Devout Christians who attend Grace Capital Church in Pembroke, the Hansons became licensed foster parents in an effort to serve others. Their first foster child was Macie Mae, a three-day old baby whom they fostered in 2004 and eventually adopted in 2008.

During that same time the Hansons learned about children in need in Africa and felt drawn to Rwanda. They spoke with a Gilford couple who had gone through the independent African adoption process, and after that the Hansons committed to adopting not one but two Rwandan babies.

The decision to double the adoption total required serious fund-raising, lots of paperwork, prayers and frustrating unanswered phone calls to Kigali. But telephones (and prayers) were eventually answered, arrangements were successfully made and in 2008 the Hansons brought Benaiah Hurricane and Luke Washington to New Hampshire and into the Hanson family.

To the soccer pitch

Benaiah took to soccer at an early age, playing on the Loudon Freedom’s U-9 Club team when he was only 7 and helping the team go undefeated with his blazing speed. He soon attracted the attention of the Seacoast Express United Club, where he eventually settled into his natural position of striker.

He became well-known in New Hampshire’s youth soccer world and in the fall of 2017, at the age of 11, Benaiah moved up to play for the Seacoast Development Academy team out of Epping. Not intimidated by more polished players (none were faster), Benaiah scored five goals in his second game for his new team. Then four goals in his third game. And four goals in the fourth game. After moving up to the Academy’s ‘A’ team, he scored four goals against Valeo FC, a  feeder team to the New England Revolution. This put the young Loudoner on the MLS radar screen.

In April of 2018, at the age of 12, Benaiah was invited to Gillette Stadium for a workout sponsored by the Revolution. The Hansons were euphoric. They admittedly didn’t understand everything that was happening, they just knew it was something special. But four days before the Foxborough workout, Benaiah broke his leg during a home game in Epping.

“We prayed about it,” Heidi said. “We told the Revolution about the injury but they said to come anyway.”

The Hansons made the long drive to Foxborough while Benaiah agonized about the missed opportunity to show the Revolution what he could do. Pete, Heidi, and Benaiah expected a pro forma discussion with someone from the Revolution and then a long ride back to Loudon. Instead, they were stunned when a team official offered Benaiah a spot on the organization’s 18-member Development Academy U-13 roster for the fall.

Benaiah recovered from the broken leg, trained with Phil Tuttle’s Elite Player Performance Soccer organization in Concord over the summer and then scored nine goals in nine games in the fall. During the indoor winter season, he scored a goal against an English team sponsored by the legendary Manchester United, despite being double-teamed by bigger Brits.

On to Texas

In 2019, Benaiah played on the Revs’ U-14 team as a 13-year-old and even moved up to U-15 for three games, scoring a goal. During his fall season, he was invited to train with The Pro Project out of Massachusetts, where he worked out with older, faster, bigger and more skilled players and incorporated film analysis into his training.

This year beckoned as a breakthrough one for Benaiah, and then...COVID-19. New England soccer plans and schedules were modified or cancelled. Benaiah suffered extreme 2020 sports frustration – along with countless others in this year of the coronavirus.

The Hansons prayed on things and then, as in 2018, a surprise opportunity manifested itself. Pete and Heidi reached out to a coach in Dallas and eventually the ECNL’s Texans U15 Boys Academy, which based out of Farmers Branch, Texas, offered Benaiah a roster spot. So, Benaiah and his parents traveled to Texas on Aug. 2 and learned that the organization already had a preseason slate of friendlies scheduled. The team also favors a fast-paced, European style of soccer, which is well-suited to Benaiah’s skills. That the club plays outdoors on grass year-round was another plus.

“The organization was wonderful to Pete, Benaiah and me,” Heidi said. “They knew we faced a tough decision, dealing with many pros and cons. We all love New England. But because we were friends with a family with a son on the team, we finally decided that Texas was the place for Benaiah to continue his journey.”

Articulate and well-read, Benaiah is a thinker and dreamer who is already working on a book with mythological inspiration. He appears to be a major home-schooling success story, a young man that almost any university would love to enroll. His eyes sparkle as he describes his favorite soccer moments, including a “meg” against Manchester United – a move where he pushed the ball between his defender’s legs and then outraced him to the ball.

That 2008 plane ticket that brought Benaiah to America from a Rwandan orphanage has led to a soccer ticket that just might take him anywhere. He already admits to dreaming about a spot on the American Men’s National Team someday.

When it was pointed out to Benaiah that he’d only be 16 years old when the next World Cup competition takes place in Qatar in 2022, he smiled..

“That’s correct,” he said with a soccer sparkle in his eye.

(Michael Moffett of Loudon was a high school soccer goalkeeper.)

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