Ghana natives cherish opportunity in US

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By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor

5,502 miles separate Amass Amankona and Lalas Abubakar from home.

The Ghana natives fomerly looked west towards the United States, but now it’s the look back toward home that makes the University of Dayton men’s soccer players thankful for where they attend college.

The two former University of Ghana student-athletes celebrate each day as members of UD head coach Dan Currier’s club.

Abubakar, a first-year sophomore defender, joins Amankona, a second-year senior forward in America. The gift for these Ghanaians is the educational part of the experience.

“Here it’s like a professional stage,” Amankona said. “Everyone sees to it that you go to class and you don’t have to concentrate on one of them. You have to try to maintain a GPA to stay eligible. It’s a nice experience to play here and get a degree. After you play you have two options: [to] play or to work.”

Abubakar, whose family halted a professional soccer career opportunity in Portugal, agrees.

“I had this opportunity to tryout professionally for a team in Portugal,” Abubakar said. “My family said, ‘Hey dude, you can be good at soccer but you must get an education.’ If you have the opportunity in the US, you must go.”

At the University of Ghana, soccer and school did not get along. In Ghana, the professors have an elevated position in society, and the two did not find it easy to deal with.

“The professors are proud in Ghana, and therefore, it’s highly difficult to schedule time with them,” Amankona said. “They don’t give the students as much time as they do here. Here, the professors want you to do well because it’s expensive to come here. They want you to make the most of what you’re paying.”

Abubakar, who said he struggled early on with balancing school and soccer in an even light, is thankful for the professors in the United States because of their patience and accessibility in making sure he does his assignments.

“The way education is here is far, far better than Ghana,” Abubakar said. “Here, everything is structured. When it’s school time, it’s school time. When it’s soccer time, it’s soccer time. The professors here understand that we have to travel. They also stay on us to finish our assignments that we miss. In Ghana, some professors are not as helpful.”

Abubakar was lucky to have Amankona’s experience with American college life. The two would Skype each other in 2013 to the tune of Amankona’s insight to what succeeding in an American university and athletic program takes: “mental toughness.”

“Sometimes you see a team here and you think you can beat them like 10-0,” Amankona said. “But when they play, they are so serious and fight so hard for the ball. If you are relaxed it means they are going to beat you. Everything is mental toughness. You have to be disciplined to win.”

Amankona loves the fact that his coaches adjust and change the soccer system each game.

“Here they teach you game plan,” Amankona said. “You practice for the new team. You can find a weakness and the negative side and try to win. The coaches figured out how to play. At practice and in the games it works for us. Learn from practice and do it in the game. Try to produce that game plan. In Ghana, even if you’re getting scored on, you play the same way.”

The Flyers continued their strong defense on the road over the weekend, shutting out IUPUI 5-0 Sept. 19 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Amankona, who was yet to find the net all season long, nabbed two of the five goals against the Jaguars.

Abubakar, who mentioned his struggles adjusting to scheduling school and classes, was named Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie-of-the-Week Sept. 15 for his strong play in the backfield for Dayton.

Staying disciplined in the classroom is an edge that the two from Ghana will never lack. They get to play soccer in America. They get to have an American education.

“It’s a privilege,” Abubakar said. “It’s something no one can take from you.”