The Famous Soccer Player Hiding in Plain Sight in a California Bakery

“I just talked to him the other night,” Sukur said. “He said, ‘What else can we say here?’ He even said, ‘If you keep silent, maybe you can return and they will not do anything.’ ”

That is not possible, Sukur said.

“There are thousands and thousands of people living in this situation,” Sukur said. “I wouldn’t be so selfish to just defend my own rights, to just keep my benefits over everything else. I would lose all respect to myself.”

The Long-Term Plan

The Famous Soccer Player Hiding in Plain Sight in a California Bakery
The Famous Soccer Player Hiding in Plain Sight in a California Bakery

Sukur and his family regularly speak to his parents through FaceTime. His father, 77, is out of jail but fighting cancer. His mother thanks God for the people who invented her phone so that she can see her son’s face.

“Last Friday my father says to my son, ‘I miss you,’ ” Sukur said in English, before turning to Turkish to finish the story. “ ‘I want to hug you.’ And then my son started to cry, and my father was crying, and we were all crying. I know there are millions of people living in these conditions in the U.S. for a very long time, unable to go home and hug their loved ones.”

Sukur sees himself as an immigrant, trying to build his own American dream for his family. His visa expires in 2020, he said, and he has applied for green cards for his family and himself. He is anxious about getting them. His long-term plan in the United States is not to run a cafe, but to coach and build a sports academy, like he thought he would do in Turkey. Turkish friends have considered supporting him but are nervous because of the politics a world away.

“At the moment there are a couple of investors,” Sukur said. “But now people are afraid to be seen with me. But I’m also open to work with American investors and sportsmen. I feel like I can contribute. I have a lot of networks, in Europe and in the world. I think I can contribute a lot.”

Like most of Sukur’s customers, not all the neighbors know who he is — or was. They see him and his family as people from Turkey, making a go of it here.

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