AP Interview: Jozy Altidore plans trip to Haiti

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LONDON (AP) — Jozy Altidore placed call after call to Haiti, desperate to locate his relatives.

But two days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the U.S. national team striker has been unable to get through and is preparing to travel to the devastated country to look for himself.

Altidore, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Haiti 35 years ago, has more than a dozen family members — uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces — unaccounted for.

With phone lines down and Internet connections wiped out, traveling there seems the only option.

“We are just praying — that is all we can do right now because communicating with Haiti is very difficult,” the 20-year-old Altidore said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “There is not much (news) in terms of the status of my family. We have been constantly tracking the Red Cross Web site but we still can’t get through to anybody there. We know as much as everybody else.”

Altidore, who plays in England for Premier League club Hull, was with his father in a restaurant in the northeast English port city on Tuesday night when they first heard the news.

“I want to go now if I’m able to make the trip over and help in any way,” he said. “My mother and father (Joseph and Giselle) are also looking into going, but I’m also concerned for their safety there.”

The frantic phone calls began as they monitored the sketchy television reports.

“It’s tough finding out what is happening because there are not many resources in Haiti at the moment. You only see what is on the television,” said Altidore, who was born in New Jersey. “This is a tragedy of astronomical proportions. It’s definitely the most nerve-racking time of my life. It just makes you realize there is more to life than football.

“Football is very important to me obviously and I’ve put a lot of hours into it, but it puts everything into perspective when a tragedy like this happens.”

Alditore, who is expected to be on the U.S. squad at the World Cup in South Africa in June, was assured Thursday by Hull manager Phil Brown that he will be given compassionate leave to help the search.

“He was very positive and very concerned about the situation and he asked me if I needed time to be with my family and if there were any updates,” said Altidore, who is on a season-long loan at Hull from Spanish club Villarreal. “I told him we remain hopeful and we keep them in our prayers. He has offered me time off if needed if there is even more unfortunate news.”

Since his first visit to Haiti around 1998, Altidore has made regular trips — the most recent with singer Wyclef Jean in 2006 on a charity mission to help the homeless and hungry.

“Without Haiti, I wouldn’t even be here and I’m very grateful,” Altidore said. “I remember going and seeing the youngest children roaming the streets with nothing to eat, but they still had smiles on their faces, running after footballs, dancing to music.

“To see what I see on TV of devastation is very heartbreaking.”

Altidore turned to his Twitter site within hours of the quake to urge people to donate money to help the rebuilding process in already-impoverished Haiti.

“The people there have such resilience and I thought the country was turning a corner when I was last there,” he said. “They have been through a lot of devastation and hardship, but time after time they bounce back.

“It’s a shame that the tragedy that has struck, but we can recover.”