Introduction by Javanan Staff Writer, Masa Zokaei
Story by Tasha-Nicole Terani
She went from being abandoned on the street as a newborn baby, to a United Nations Ambassador for Peace. She’s a Five-Time World Record Holder in Soccer, World Renowned Soccer Training Expert, Founder of the Every Child’s Dream Foundation for orphaned babies and children and creator of one of the best-selling and most well-regarded soccer training systems in the world.
Tasha-Nicole Terani is the Soccer Cinderella.
Abandoned by her birth Mother as a baby in the streets of Tehran. Left to die in a dark alleyway, a police officer found her and took her into the nearest orphanage where she shared a rusted metal crib with several other babies. She received no playtime, nobody would hold her or nurture her in any way. She found out later in life that at one point she was so anxious and hungry that she chewed her own thumb down to the bone. She also later discovered that the orphanage had over 500 other abandoned babies and children, and sometimes there was just not enough food.
Tasha shares with us her story of surviving the obstacles in her life and eventually helping kids worldwide.
I was in denial of the loss of my birth mother, birth father, and entire biological family until I was about 32 years old. It was the only way I could survive. I fought for acceptance with my adoptive family right from the start. My adoptive mother and eldest brother used to like to call me names like “Little Orphan Annie” and many other embarrassing names in front of all my friends. The entire list of names I was called is embarrassing to share.
The only person in my adoptive home that used my actual name was my adoptive father Nick. The others used any name they could to try to break me down. It was their mission to make sure that I knew I didn’t belong in the family.
My older brothers liked taking me to the soccer field and drill the soccer ball at me as hard as possible from very short distances. Their goal was usually to knock me over with the ball or to hit me directly in the face. For a very long time I would just let them hit me. Then one day, something switched in me and I decided I would try to control the ball with my body in order to protect myself. I got really good at this over the years.
My brothers were very competitive and serious when it came to soccer. All the best soccer kids in the area would come to our house to play with us. I played soccer with them and was NOT allowed to make mistakes. If I did, I would pay for them later. With the soccer ball getting kicked at me and getting attacked and wrestled to the ground. My soccer skills soon became quick and stealth. By the time I was 8 years old, I was rated the highest ranking, most skilled player in girls soccer in Southern California. I recall the soccer league contemplating putting me on a boys’ team to be fair. The baseball league had to contemplate the same thing once I started girls’ softball.
Sports were the ultimate escape for me. Soccer was my sanctuary. The soccer field was my home. I belonged there.
Still, my adoptive family was unbearable. Before age 12, I already had two serious attempts at suicide. At age 13, after years of physical and mental abuse in my adoptive family’s home, I decided to leave.
I instinctively knew that I had a very small window of opportunity to make things right in my life, so I pretended that nothing was wrong; and it worked. I worked numerous jobs at a time just to make ends meet, sometimes up to five jobs at a time. I owned my own car by age 14 and was driving myself to modeling castings and modeling jobs all around Los Angeles. I even had to live in my car for over a year before I finally landed my first big modeling gig for Pepsi. It was a half time commercial to be aired during the Super Bowl
By age 17, for the first time in my life, I was able to live in my own place. I moved myself into a penthouse condo in Westwood, California. I continued modeling in Los Angeles and New York for many years.
I loved throwing parties at my place in Los Angeles for my friends. They were always so excited about my latest magazine shoot or modeling gig. I just didn’t understand that. I was so perplexed by their excitement about my modeling career. I wasn’t into it as much as my friends. I really needed something rewarding at the end of my day, something that made a difference. I knew that in order for me to express the depth and power inside of me, I would have to stop modeling and do things differently.
I moved to Atlanta to try something new, thinking that maybe a change of place will reveal a new path. One day while on our way to a concert, I was listening to an audiobook in the car with a friend, I heard something that would forever change the course of my life-- although I didn’t know it at the time. The book title was Good to Great and it focused on Fortune 500 companies and how they went from being a good company to a great company. What the writer discovers on this journey is that they all focused on something quite simple and small; but they all strived to be the “best in the world” at that small and simple niche.
The moment came where the narrator says, “In order to go from good to great you have to ask yourself this question, What can I do better than anyone else in the world?” My friend looked directly at me and said, “Well, Tasha. What can you do better than anyone else in the world?”
Without hesitation, I answered, “Soccer!! I can play soccer better than any woman in the world! I can control a soccer ball better than any woman in the world!!”
In my mind I made a decision in that moment that the very next day I would begin to train and to pursue playing striker (forward) for a professional women’s soccer team in the United States.
I called my modeling agent in Atlanta and I told her, with utter excitement, to never call me again! I told her I was going to become a professional soccer player. She laughed of course, as did every other person I shared that plan with, including my best friend.
I started waking up at 5:00 in the morning every day and going to a local park to essentially play soccer alone for hours at a time. Many times training in pouring rain. Only three months into my training I was accomplishing and fulfilling my destiny without even realizing it.
I asked a friend at the time to come out and watch me one afternoon. Keeping in mind that he had never even seen me touch a soccer ball. He only knew me as a tall, lanky model from LA.
About ten minutes into watching me he said, “Wow, Tasha I’ve never in my life seen a man or woman control a soccer ball like that! You must be breaking world records right now!” We went online and looked it up in the Guinness Book of World Records. It turned out I was breaking several soccer world records, both men’s and women’s.
I decided to move to New York and train near the Guinness Records Headquarters. I was able to land another big modeling agent there in the meantime to support my goal. After a year, I had four World Records, including both men’s and women’s Soccer Ball Control Records. I was invited to go on the Today Show and break my own world records live on the show.
On the show Al Roker interviewed me he asked me, “Why did you want to break world records? Is it your dream to play for a professional women’s team in the United States?”
My response would be another turning point in my life. I answered, “Al, my dream is actually to help children through soccer. I know that if I’m not a professional player I would have to break a lot of World Records for kids to know that I can help them!”
Lucky for me, Remegio Maradona (Diego Maradona’s brother and Head of the United Nations Peace through Soccer Campaign) was watching the show that day. He soon got a hold of me and asked me to be an official Ambassador for Peace through Soccer for the United Nations. They held a big dinner and ceremony at the U.N Headquarters in New York to honor me with that title.
Now I was ready to move back to the “Soccer Mecca” of the United States, where I grew up, Southern California. I began training kids in Southern California and around the world with the United Nations Program and creating a soccer training system that would teach kids to control the soccer ball using the same methods I used to break World Records.
After years of training thousands of kids all around the world the day came where I had a two-year waiting list that spanned the U.S and worldwide. I was simply exhausted. Yet, I knew that I never wanted to stop training kids. I wanted to do this forever! Every day was like Christmas Day! I was working with children and making such an impact in their lives. I was on the right path and thoroughly enjoying every moment.
At about age 32, I finally took a breath and realized: I have accomplished all the things I set out to accomplish. I quit modeling, I broke soccer world records, I became a United Nations Ambassador for Soccer! I feel happy, content, exonerated! I think I enjoyed a few weeks or so in that state of mind before it all came crashing down on me. I realized I was truly content and therefore for the first time since childhood I was completely vulnerable.
I started having a recurring dream that I was back in the streets in Tehran and I was chasing my mother around street corners. Chasing her around the city, yelling to her to look at me. I knew it was her but I couldn’t see her face. I was desperately trying to catch her and connect with her and just catch a glimpse of her.
She kept running away from me and avoiding looking my way and pretending I wasn’t there. I wanted to catch her and tell her everything that has happened. I wanted to tell her that I survived and that I’m not mad at her for leaving me. I continued to exhaust myself chasing and following her all through the streets until I finally caught a break. She got into a car to drive away from me as I hurled myself into the passenger side of the car and I turned my head to see her face she turned towards me, we looked at each other and there she was-- it was me. The mysterious face of my mother that I yearned to see was me. I was the driver of the car, not my mother. I was her and she was me.
Finding my mother wasn’t the answer, finding myself would be the answer. The demons that I had been tricking and eluding my whole life were staring me down, prepared to fight. But I was the demon from my past. My pain and struggles are mine and no one else’s. I would have to accept it and get ready for the fight of my life. The paradox that drives us all, a fight against myself. I thought I had successfully built a vault and filled it with the past and locked it shut. I was wrong.
For the next several years I became lost and I went into a deep dark depression. I finally began the mourning process in which I’d been successfully postponing. Mourning for the family I had lost. Mourning for the mother that abandoned me in a dark alley. For the father I will never know, nor will I ever know if he knows that I exist. For the many siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents in which I would never experience their love or company. Every day for me during this mourning process was as if they all had just died in a massive plane crash the night before.
I had no idea how hard and trying those years would be. It was certainly the most difficult time of my life and the most confusing. It was worse than being homeless. Only I could understand what it was and only I could defeat it. And it took me several years.
I would emerge stronger and fiercer than ever before, ready to focus on a new mission.
My focus now would be to pioneer and support the orphaned and abandoned babies and children across the globe.
My project was born, The Every Child’s Dream Foundation for orphaned and abandoned babies and children. My foundation set out to deliver Specialty Care Packages and has done so in 92 Countries and to every state in the U.S.. Not only do we deliver to orphaned and abandoned babies and children worldwide, we also deliver to hospitals, disaster relief centers and many other types of emergency situations across the globe!
Another gem revealed itself, this is when I discovered I can train kids forever! I will would write a script of my soccer system of training and my methods for kids and put it on DVD. The TNT Soccer System was born. Next would come my own soccer ball, a soccer training app!
The need for me to help others is real, immense and still growing. It’s truly amazing how many people tell me to get over what happened to me, move on and let it go. What they don’t get is that it’s not about letting go of what happens to you, it’s about using and harnessing the pain and loss and turning into something positively powerful.
My entire family has been missing from my life since birth. I have no answers for this and I will never have answers. The only way for me to get through that is to crusade to help others that are in the same type of situation. This is the way to heal, this is the path to forgiveness. At the end of my busiest day, the pain of the loss of my entire family is still there and it always will be.
My pain is my greatest strength. My pain is what makes me who I am. My pain is what drives me to help others. My pain is deep within my heart and soul, and with it I will make change in any way I can. Giving is the most powerful, rewarding, and joyous experience in all of humanity. Everybody wins!