BY Bryan Ramos | THE RIDER
More than 6,400 miles from home, in a country you’ve never been, playing the game you love. That is the reality for freshmen student-athletes Diana Ansah and Sarah Bonney who joined the UTRGV women’s soccer program from the West African country of Ghana over the summer.
The Ghanaian pair’s opportunity arose in the form of a 75-girl tryout in front of women’s Head Soccer Coach Glad Bugariu and Assistant Coach Silviu Telespan that would be trimmed down to the top five. Of the five, only two would earn a shot to play Division I soccer in Edinburg. Ansah and Bonney, who met at 17 years old, seized the opportunity, showcasing their skills and abilities enough to impress the UTRGV women’s soccer coaches.
Coach Bugariu explained the process of finding international talent like Ansah and Bonney.
“Our recruiting theory has always been ‘start locally and expand globally.’ So, we’re always looking everywhere we can for players who can help get us closer to those top teams in our conference,” Bugariu said. “We’re looking for attacking players, like Sarah, who can change the game, change the pace when we put her in; then we look for multifunctional players like Diana, who can play multiple positions, both players who can impact the game and have a good future here.”
Bonney, who hails from Winneba, Ghana, and ranks third on the team in shots on goal with 14, admitted she had to adapt to the style and speed of the game played here in the states, a challenge that she has accepted with a smile.
“The only difference is the standard here is a bit higher than compared in my country,” she said. “The ball moves faster, so when I came out I adjust myself to be faster. That was my only problem in the beginning but I’m cool now, I’m in. My style is I’m fast, I’ll just go by you and I think coach saw that in me. I normally come off the bench, but when I come in I do my best, I do what I do. I haven’t scored yet but the goals will come.”
Ansah, who is from Oseikrom, Ashanti, Ghana, was in school when she heard about the tryout. She took a break for her shot at playing Division I soccer collegiately in the U.S. She said the biggest adjustment she’s had to make is juggling the responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete.
“Academics and soccer, it’s very different, it’s a huge task,” Ansah said. “Back in Ghana, when I was in school, we played our games during vacations; we don’t play while school is in progress. It’s kind of difficult but I have [to] make it if I want to achieve it.”
Coming from Ghana to the U.S., specifically the Rio Grande Valley, there is a drastic difference in culture and lifestyle.
“First, I will talk about the weather,” Bonney said. “It’s still hot. It’s different. In my country, when it is around 6, it’s almost dark, but here, when it’s 7, the sun is still out. It surprises me. Here, everywhere is clean as compared to my country, most places are untidy. There’s some many beautiful places here compared to my country.”
The Ghanaian women have worked to put themselves in position to succeed, as both were members of the U-2o Ghana National Team pool and previously of the U-17 pool, an honor that many seek but only few achieve.
“In our country, it’s an opportunity everybody is trying for, it’s like you’re targeting your aspirations so being a part of the national team pool was privilege,” Bonney said.
To be a part of the team is one thing, to start as a freshman is another. Ansah, who has started five games for the team early in the season, is grateful for the opportunity that sits in front of her.
“I feel it’s been great,” Ansah said. “Personally, starting for the team is a great opportunity for me. It’s an achievement. Coming all the way from Ghana to come and start here is not easy but I’ve been able to be with the first team, so I have to say thanks to God for making it all possible.”
Now in just the team’s third year, Ansah and Bonney hope to contribute to the growing program that has seen success early in the 2016 season, posting five straight shutouts and a 5-1-1 overall record. To keep up with the UTRGV women’s soccer team, visit GoUTRGV.com for the latest news and information.