|Ahmed El Tawmi
came to this country from his native Libya in 1983. His only relative living in the USA was his uncle, Ali Raffa who lived in St. Louis and sponsored Ahmed upon his arrival here.
Ahmed grew up with the game of soccer in Libya and he continued his love for "The Beautiful Game" here in St. Louis. He worked very hard to establish himself, working in University City restaurants, both as a manager and then as owner of the very popular "Gyros House" on Mehlville Ave in the U City Loop.
Ahmed started playing with our aging group of soccer hooligans in 2002 and instantly established himself as a talented striker with a rifle of a right foot. He was hardworking, honest, and upright, a man that personified an immigrant success story.
The news of his murder in a senseless robbery outside of his apartment building on the evening of June 4, 2010, left all of us in a state of shock and with a deep sense of loss. Aside from his comrades on the soccer pitch, he will be mourned by his siblings in Libya, his uncle here, his employees and many friends, and all of the customers that made the Gyros House a regular stopping place. Ahmed never married but he leaves behind so many that call him friend.
May Ahmed rest in peace and may his killer be brought to justice.
Ahmed devoted much his time and resources to reaching out and helping newly arrived immigrants. We think he would be pleased with our efforts to raise money for the International Institute, a St. louis based organization dedicated to helping immigrants and refugees.
Keep an eye on this space for upcoming details on how you may share in Ahmed's ongoing generosity. We should have a link for you by 6/14.
Comments from e-mails sent to Saint Louis United FC by Ahmed's Soccer Family...
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- Very sorry to hear this shocking and tragic news. May Ahmed rest in peace.
- That is terrible awful news. Please pass on our sincere condolances & let's all plan to attend the funeral. Rest in peace Ahmed. We will miss you.
- Yes we heard the terrible and shocking news. I am so saddened and hurt I don't know what to say. Let's all pray for his family (I know he had brothers and sisters) back in Libya, and of course his uncle here in St.Louis. I am very very sad guys. unbelievable.
- Mari and I had just eaten dinner at the Gyro house late yesterday afternoon. As usual, Ahmed was his gracious self. Please keep us informed as you always seem to do.
- How sad and awful! Is there any information yet on funeral arrangements?
- Thanks for letting us know, Arno. Very upsetting. I'll try to leave work early tomorrow to make the service.
Peace, Ron S.
- This is shocking, terribly sad news. Life is NOT fair, if ever we needed a reminder.
- As I sit here in Ahmed's native country Libya, I feel very sad and shocked. Ahmed was a great friend and a wonderful teamate....I will miss him very much
- Shocking and very sad news! My prayers go out to his family.
- Thank you very much for taking the lead on informing everyone. Hope to see whoever can make it to the funeral home this morning. Ahmed was a very generous and nice guy outside the pitch. He was fun on the pitch too with his complaining and always demanding the perfect passes, but never took anything outside the game. It is a big loss to people who knew him better. The loop will not never be the same for me without him. God bless.
- Thinking of Ahmed's dear family at this awful time. Unbelievable! He will be missed. God go with you Ahmed!
- I just returned from scout sea base in Florida with my grandson & am shocked & saddened to hear about our friend Amed. I'm sorry that I can't be there at the mosque today as I don't return home until tomorrow evening.
- When I played goalkeeper, his was my favorite shot to stop, since most of the time he would just blast it right by me. When I played forward, I hoped to be half as good as he was - may our friend Ahmed look down on us and smile!!
- Tonight, I am going to honor Ahmed in the best way that I know how to honor such a man. I am going to play the beautiful game with his and my friends. God willing, I will score a goal or two and they will in no way compare to the goals that Ahmed scored. He will be missed on the pitch tonight and forever going forward.
Arno M. P.
- Arno and Arno, so sorry for your loss. What a sad day for you all. Hugs and prayers.
I remember playing with and against Ahmed in my St. Louis Days. He had a heck of shot. He loved the game. Very sad that his life was cut short. I will be thinking of him and his family.
- I am just returning from out of town and I am simply stunned by this news. So sad I was unable to attend the service.
- Wow. I'm sorry I wasn't able to make the memorial service. What terrible news. Ahmed was a great guy with a great right foot. A big footie fan. The St. Louis soccer scene lost one of it's biggest personalities!! A very sad day for us all.
- I never encountered Ahmed away from a soccer field, but I could always tell as soon as he stepped off the pitch (and frequently while on) that he was a tremendously kind human being, in spite of his ultra competitive and highly vocal style on the pitch. Everything I have read and heard since the unfathomable events of this awful weekend have confirmed that wasn’t just my impression; it was a reality. I simply can’t comprehend that we won’t see any more jaw dropping soccer plays from him, or be able to laugh at or with him as he regaled us about the latest soccer injustice inflicted upon him. That’s a reality I wish none of us had to cope with, but it’s unfortunately all too real in an America where anyone, with or without brains or morals, can easily acquire the tools to end a life almost instantly, in a puff of (black) smoke.
- I regret that I didn't have a greater opportunity to get to know Ahmed in life off the pitch. But even in soccer, he seemed to be a caring individual, regularly offering help or advice on treating my latest injury. The TV, radio and newspaper coverage have been a real tribute to the impact Ahmed made on this community. He will be missed at the soccer field, in The Loop, and throughout this community.
- Although my recollection of playing soccer with Ahmed is somewhat hazy now, as I don't think there were more than 2 or 3 outdoor games and half a dozen indoor games that I played in University City, hearing others speak of his “magic right foot” quickly reminded me of what a terrific player he was, as well as what a very nice guy he was to talk to off the field. I remember how surprised he was when I practiced my Arabic greetings on him and how he laughed at my atrocious Arabic accent (but laughing with me, not at me, for I saw the funny side of it too!)
I also have to say that visiting the mosque yesterday was a very sad but also a very moving and interesting experience. This was the first time I had ever been to a mosque in the USA but I spent five years of my life in the Middle East (three years in Saudi Arabia and two years in Kuwait) and I remembered those days again when I heard the Imam chanting “Allah Wakbar” and it brought back happy memories of my days in Kuwait in particular. My Father was an Export Marketing Director for a pharmaceutical company in England for many years and travelled to Libya several times, as his company had a contract with the Libyan Ministry of Health. Dad often talked about what an interesting place Tripoli was and how much beautiful Italian marble he saw there that was left over from the days when Libya had a historical connection with Italy ( in fact I think it might have even been an Italian colony at one time) I remember talking to Ahmed about that the last time I saw him.
Ahmed was a very nice guy and I am deeply saddened that his life was taken from him so suddenly and so pointlessly by some crazy lunatic. Let us hope and pray that they find the perpetrator of this horrendous crime and bring him to justice.
You will be missed Ahmed and I hope you can save a place in heaven for the rest of us for when our time comes.
Finally you mentioned, Arno , that some of the staff from Ahmed's restaurant are planning to keep the place open. Please let me know if that comes to fruition as I would like to visit the restaurant and dine there if that does happen as my personal tribute to Ahmed.
- He was passionate. He wanted the ball. He was NEVER "off-sides" and if you tried to say he was "off-sides" he passionately explained how you are completely wrong. I only played about 20 games with him over the past few years, but he was a great ball handler, passer, and shooter. He did something amazing with the ball at least once each game, often scoring great goals (seemingly impossible goals). He was fun to watch. When he had the ball, he put his heart and soul into the next several seconds. No matter how passionate he got during the game, after the game he was a teddy bear; a great guy! He would say, "hey, when are you coming to the Gyro House? It's the best"
It took me a while to understand Ahmed. He acted gruff and argumentative on the soccer pitch and was reserved and quiet off of it. I assumed he was a selfish and aggressive person. How wrong I was! But as I got to know him, I realized what a good soul he had and what a good life he lived. Yes he loved to argue on the soccer pitch, but it was just fun to him. He held no animosity and was just having a blast doing one of the things he really loved…playing soccer. He was constantly yelling about something. “Aras…aras.” Took me a while to figure out that meant he wanted the ball served to his head. For years I thought “Shagaga” was an Arabic curse. Until I discovered that it was Abdu's last name and Ahmed was chastising him for not serving him the ball or for some other soccer faux pas.
I came to understand that Ahmed was a good and relatively uncomplicated soul. He worked hard at his restaurant, he played hard at soccer, and he cared for and took care of people. When Freud was asked what a man must do to live well, he said “Lieben und Arbeiten” (love and work). Ahmed did him one better…he added “spielen” (to play) to that recipe; leave it to Ahmed to improve the recipe for a good life. I often tell students that one measure of a successful life is to leave the world a better place than when you entered it…to be value-added to the world. Ahmed was making the world a better place and that is core to the tragedy that was his murder. He should have been making the world a better place for a lot longer. I know I miss him deeply and I only knew him for a few years.
- Well said everyone. I am still in shock and having trouble comprehending how someone could take the life of another in this manner, and for what? Sad, sad, so very sad. I am so sorry for his family and many, many friends. We will all miss him.
On the pitch Sunday night I could still hear his cries for the ball in my head. Over the years I came to enjoy calling him off-sides on his goals, even during the in-door games. He was so quick to the ball he always seemed to have a step on me. Being a defender I often had the daunting task of I trying to neutralize that great move and shot. I loved the challenge because what a sense of accomplishment when finally I would manage to prevent a goal from that right foot. He won our little duels the vast majority of the time and though often frustrated, I never felt shame in losing the battle to him. What a skillful competitor he was! Playing with and against him the past 7+ years has made me a better defender. Knowing him as a person has been absolute pleasure.
May you rest in peace, Ahmed.
- I got to know Ahmed playing for his Monday UCity indoor team these last three years. He and I were always the first ones there before a game … me because it takes me forever to warm up and Ahmed because he was frequently dealing with some ache and would lather himself up with hot stuff. We'd talk a bit about his restaurant, people, soccer goings on, you name it.
One time I decided to surprise him. I looked up and practiced some phrases in Arabic, then came in one Monday night and greeted him in Arabic, asked how he was doing, I'm fine and you, thanks … you know, stuff like that. Ahmed answered politely, then finally said totally puzzled, “Kain, why you do this?” We had a good laugh over how absolutely atrocious my accent was. That was Ahmed. He had a good laugh over everything.
It was amazing during those indoor games. When Ahmed had the ball, the entire other team would be yelling that he only could use his right foot. All their subs would be yelling that he only had a right foot. Heck, the cleaning man knew Ahmed only had a right foot. Then he'd make some jukey move as if he was actually going left … you know … his classic fake cutback or hesitation-stop/go moves and sure enough, the defender(s) would buy it once again and he'd spin and rip another right footer into the goal. This happened over and over and over and over. And when he scored a header, that was his pure joy. He'd just beam.
Ahmed knew that I had a special thing going when I played against him. I had joked with him awhile back that my personal challenge always was–win or lose–to at least stop him . That's why you always saw us go hard at each other on breakaways. Ahmed knew I was trying my best to stop him, which made scoring on me all the more satisfying for him. Then we'd talk about our mutual successes/failures after the game. He won the vast majority of those mini-contests, but never rubbed it in. He just smiled at me and trotted away. You may not remember, but the last time we played he scored on me to end the evening. That's how I want to remember him.
There are a lot of people we meet in this life who remind us of other people we know. I can't say that about Ahmed. He was a one-of-a-kind, a true “character” in the most positive sense of the word. The world is a less interesting and cheerful and warm place without him.
- I recall playing with Ahmed a couple of years ago in the Show-Me Games in Columbia. Down at least two goals, Ahmed put on an awesome scoring display in the second half to pull out the victory.
I do not profess to have known Ahmed as well as many of you off the field, but I can tell you playing goalie against him on the field was a nightmare! He will be dearly missed.
- Well said Brian and Marvin. In fact the no off side rule that we sometimes played suited Ahmed very well...except even then he would point out the other team was off side when they scored! I remember two weeks ago at the senior games, Ahmed told us not to cross the ball to his head because it was just to slippery to head properly because of the heat and greasy sun screen. Instead he pointed to his right foot as of to say that's where all the passes should be. He will be missed not only this coming weekend in Columbia but for many years to come.
- I just got back from libya and feel really bad that I wasn't here to share in honoring and remenbering my friend Ahmed. Sometimes we don't appreciate somebody until they are gone, but I believe that Ahmed is looking down on us really proud of all the kind things every body is saying about him. I knew him off the pitch to be a good hearted and extremely generous man. He was a true friend. His passion, arguing, complaining, and high expectations on the field are another quality that made him unique, because it was always done in a way that made us laugh. We knew he was a good guy. I still can't believe he is gone in such a sensless way! May he rest in peace.
I am so saddened to hear the news about Ahmed. As so well put by others, he brought a no-nonsense attitude to the pitch, but off of it, there was not a more generous and compassionate person to be found. He may have been blunt and quarrelsome on the soccer field but that translated to loyalty and trustworthiness off of the field, a far superior standard for judgment of the person that Ahmed was. I share with all of you my profound sorrow to have lost him so soon and in such a brutal manner.
- (From Korea)
That is indeed very sad and terrible news. I'm so sorry to hear that... what a sick world we live in.
Chris P. >> Read Chris' Blog about Ahmed and the Beautiful Game <<
- I have known Ahmed for a very long time, we live in the same neighborhood in our beloved city Benghazi in Libya.
I and Ahmed went to the same Primary, Seconday and High Schools in Benhazi, we shared nice memories as we are
gowing up by the time we used to walk home every day throwing our school bags on each other, played in the same
team at our School's team, make a home work revision at either at his home or at our home, where my Mum or his Mum
will serve us with snacks and our favorite mango juice. When we were at the high school we enjoyed listening to the
good seventies music at that time ( Cat Stevens, Dolly Parten, Smokie, Bee Gees...etc) we were very inicent . Every
one had known Ahmed will say that he was a very kind person , generous, charming and very very loyal to his friends.
Ahmed always help others, will always similing , during all these yeras I have known him I have never seen him angry
at anyone. Ahmed during his 30 years immigration to the US he has lost his Father, Mother and older Sister, he could
not go back home to be with them due to the dictater regime of Gaddafi who ruled Libya for more then 40 years, and
made all of us living in exile and missing our families and memories, lose our lives and not even buried in Libya.
So Long Dear Friend Ahmed, we are all missing you so much...
- I had a dream last night that Ahmed and I were in the World Cup playing against the Ivory Coast. I am not sure what team we were playing on, but both of us were wearing red shirts with lions. Now I am not quite sure if this might be Ahmed’s idea of heaven, but I was having a good time. Perhaps he would wish for a better teammate. Most of my passes to him were right on, but a couple missed. As a result he groused in Arabic, which I did not understand in the dream either. I blamed my errant passes on the fact that the grass was too short.
Being a relative newcomer to soccer, I looked up to Ahmed a great deal. He did not suffer newcomers to game well, but he did shake my hand after one game, and I thank him for that.
Be well Ahmed, and may the grass be short where you are playing, the pitch level, and all passes to you spot on.
- (From Vermont) I was stunned and deeply saddened to learn the news about Ahmed through the STL United FC message. My sincere condolences to his family and community. I always enjoyed playing with him. May he rest in peace.
- On the afternoon of Friday, June 4th, I picked my wife Mari up at the St. Louis airport. Hungry, we made our way into the University City Loop where I parked outside the Gyro House (hey … the meter still had time on it) I peaked under the half drawn blinds of the restaurant and saw Ahmed behind the counter so I stopped in to introduce my wife. After all, she'd walked enough laps around the Heman Soccer Dome watching Ahmed play she might as well be introduced.
We had no cash to pay for dinner but Ahmed glowed at us “Ah! I know you. You will pay me later!” We ordered and rather than chance forgetting about paying later, found the closest ATM. As was his custom, Ahmed told me not to worry about paying for the drinks. We dined on the best Gyro's in the area, laughed and parted with a hand shake and his farewell words “Tell your boys I said hello”. My youngest son Zack loved playing with Ahmed. My oldest son Bill hated playing goalie against him. Both knew, as did I that they were playing with a special talent.
Later that evening Mari and I were on the way to our vets when we were passed by multiple police and paramedic units. “Somebody's having a bad night,” I casually told Mari. We continued down Hanley road not realizing that the first responders where frantically attempting to save Ahmed's life a mere one block to the East.
On Saturday, the 5th of June I opened my email and to my horror I read that my soccer friend had been casually murdered. I called to my wife and asked her to sit with me before I told her that her gracious host, with the warm and engaging smile from the night before was gone.
Later that day, Mari and I stopped at the Lutheran housing community on Laclede Station Road not realizing that this facility is directly across the street from where this senseless murder occurred. It is a quiet neighborhood representative of any middle class neighborhood in St. Louis. We have a friend that would like to live in the complex and despite the horrific events of June 4th, we are actively seeking to help her move into the Lutheran housing complex.
Sunday, June 6th, a service was held to celebrate Ahmed's life. The service was held at a mosque in Manchester. Many of us who simply knew Ahmed from soccer or the restaurant attended, knowing that as non-Muslims, we would not be permitted into the sanctuary. When the time came for the final prayers, all of us were welcomed into the sanctuary according to Islamic tradition. The men removed their shoes and lined the main sanctuary while the women were somewhere upstairs looking down. As I read the racial hatred spread on various news web sites, I wish there would be more reporting on the love and support among all faiths that was demonstrated during that brief ceremony.
Tonight as I file my receipts, I stare at one realizing that I was literally a little more than one street away when Ahmed died. If I had the windows down I probably would have heard the shots. How is it that my wife and I were among the last to share in his hospitality and then were so close to his home when he was callously murdered? Why did I feel the need to stop in the Loop rather than closer to my home for dinner? Why was the meter directly in front of his restaurant open with time remaining? Simple random events haunt me and my wife while we attempt to cope with this senseless loss.
Fundamentally, all individuals are responsible for their actions. People like Ahmed practice acts of random kindness as part of their daily life. The community as a whole is blessed with people like Ahmed without realizing the blessing. He was kind, compassionate and above all, honest to himself and those around him. Yes, he was demanding on the soccer pitch but that attention to detail simply reflected his desire to do well in all that he did. He expected the best of himself and he expected the best of you as well. We do not recognize these individuals until we recognize, by their absence, what we have lost.
Sadly, there are those in our community who practice acts of random violence. People like the man who murdered Ahmed are depicted in the press in a variety of ways, none of which recognize the fundamental tenant that they are responsible for their actions. This murderer must be found and removed from society for all time. I say this not because he has bereft me of a friend, but rather that he has demonstrated that he places no value on human life. Consequently, I do not value his. The facts of this event speak for themselves. So what do we do as a community to remember this wonderful, colorful man? I have seen links to web sites to donate money to charities. I have seen suggestions that his soccer pals hold a tournament in his honor. I would suggest that something much simpler must be done, live life as Ahmed lived his. Expect the best from yourself and those around you. Smile and let others know that you are thinking about them and their family. And above all else, be kind to your neighbor, regardless of their race, ethnic origin or religion.
- I had known Ahmed for about one year until his death; although I actually "knew" him for about 20 years. My wife and I used to frequent Zorba's in The Loop back in the mid-80's, and Ahmed undoubtedly took our order. I discovered this in our conversations during last winter's indoor session on Wednesdays. He and I were usually there first, and we talked as we warmed up. I believed he and I would have become good friends given enough time. Unfortunately, his time was cut short. A senseless tragedy, which has robbed us all of a good, warm-hearted person. The world is a small place, and life is short; be kind to everyone and play the beautiful game. Rest in peace, Ahmed.
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