I like to say that I didn’t have much of a choice but to play soccer. My father is originally from Nigeria, and I believe he placed a small soccer ball in the crib with me when I was born as a foreshadow of what my life would be like.
I began playing when I was three years old and quickly fell in love with it. If I can look back, I appreciate the impact it had on the people around me, the relationships it allowed me to form, and the emotional bonds I was able to form with people through the sport.
Both familial with my father, and with other relatives or friends. Other people who had passion for the sport who were in my life, but also with the friends I played with and the parents of my teammates who saw me play. I’ve always loved being able to do something on the field that made people smile and make them make an exasperated noise.
That was always a very fulfilling experience for me because it was a pure form of expression, a pure form of appreciation. And I was glad to be a part of making that possible for others.
Both of my parents taught me to put myself in the service of others as much as possible. And when I used to break that down, my thought was always, “What can I do in my life to have the greatest impact on people?”
Throughout my adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood, I believed that if I could get to the point where I was performing in front of people, I could use that as a forum to express the values that I hold most dear. That’s what I believe professional soccer has enabled me to do. Soccer has always given me the opportunity to do so. And as a professional, I’ve had access to that forum. But that was always the case for me. Being able to positively impact others gives me a lot of fulfillment.
When you have those opportunities, and soccer has provided me with plenty of them. You’d want to come across as authentic as possible, and I think that’s why I’ve always been so attached to soccer because it’s a place where things that aren’t authentic get weeded out quickly.
And authenticity is usually what is put on display and what people notice. When you’re able to have conversations with them, being a part of that forum, a part of the sport, it further solidifies my belief in the purity of what soccer can be and should be. And that’s a long way of saying why I enjoy it, how I got into it, and why I continue to do it.
A Fresh Perspective On The World
Soccer and education have always gone hand in hand in my life. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been fortunate to have received a traditional education. When you think of a traditional educational path in the United States, you know, grade school, high school, college, and graduate school etc.
That is what this sport has given me. It has given me the opportunity to attend institutions. And by attending those institutions, a plethora of doors open within them as well.
That is the most significant impact it has had on me. I often think about times when you move to a new place, move to a new city, join a new team, and you already have a built-in community. It is up to you whether you want to fit in and how much you want to participate in that community, but it’s already there for you.
That is not the case for many people when they move to a new place. Being able to travel to so many different places and always feel as if you have a purpose, security, and support. That is not something I believe many people have in their lives. It’s rare in a lifetime to move from your home to a new place and find community, but doing so every time you move is an advantage in some ways.
It’s a fantastic asset to have, like education, the more communities you can be a part of, the more likely you are to be accepted. the more you’ll be able to enjoy everything this world has to offer. Soccer has brought so much intrinsic value to my life.
It has given me opportunities to interact with people from other towns, cities, states, countries, and continents. when you approach those interactions and relationships with sincerity, curiosity, a desire to learn, and a desire to broadening your horizons in ways you would not have had access to otherwise. So, more than anything else, soccer has given me a perspective on the world.
Paying It Forward
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of nonprofits through my work with United Black Players. one of the most recent ones that I’m really proud to have worked with was a nonprofit that was originally based in Denver, Colorado called Colorado uplift.
They’re in over ten cities across the United States and are still expanding. And their mission is to provide structural and educational support through programs that help underprivileged and underserved urban youths improve their life outcomes.
In this project, we’re working with some of their program directors to help provide a four-year scholarship to Bellevue University for one of their program students. It’s been awesome to be a part of this process.
Knowing that you’ve worked with them (change makers) in those environments, you hope that when you’re done kicking a ball around, you’ll have opportunities to work with those same people later in your life. And because of the previous work you’ve done with them, we’ll be well prepared to achieve whatever it is.
So, once again, it is relationships that fulfill me the most in this life. If I was able to foster that while playing, I hope to be able to sustain those when I’m not.
This story is a part of the “My Reason Why” series in partnership with United Black Players. You can view other entries in the series HERE