Barack Obama surprises Chicago youth football team

Tuesday, Obama stopped by Jackson Park, near his future center's site, where the Chicago Southside Wolfpack practices.

Former President Barack Obama has been in Chicago meeting with stakeholders and community leaders in advance of the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center coming soon to the city’s south side. 

On Tuesday afternoon, he stopped by Jackson Park, which is near the future presidential center’s site, where the Chicago Southside Wolfpack football team — comprised of boys aged eight to 16 — practices. 

Former President Barack Obama surprised the teenage Southside Wolfpack football players and their cheerleaders Tuesday, reassuring them about their Chicago field, which will become part of the Obama Presidential Center. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

“I told you I was coming by, coach! You didn’t believe me!” Obama said, laughing, according to a report from ABC 7

Obama spoke to the players and team cheerleaders, reassuring them about their field, which will become part of the new center. The Obama Foundation worked with coaches to find them a new home nearby.

“That was one of the biggest things that we said … we said we needed this because we call this our sanctuary, and we have to have this field,” Coach Ernest Radcliffe said. “To come here and stand in front of our kids and talk to them, he gave them hope.” 

The former president also visited businesses in South Shore to assure them that the Obama Presidential Center would engage and support them. 

“We want to make sure that the Obama Presidential Center does not operate in a silo and at the center supports local businesses in the community and the community at large,” said Tonya Rice, executive director of South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

In his visit to the park, Obama gave the football team some tips about life, saying, “Sometimes, you’re going to have some doubts. Sometimes, you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes, you won’t get what you want right away. But the key is, can you build that strength in yourself to come back?”

The former president then spent time shaking hands and taking pictures with the young athletes and cheerleaders. He was also greeted by a player who shares his first name. In a video shared Tuesday by The Obama Foundation, he and the teenager are seen embracing. 

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