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American Soccer Star Cherishes Nigerian Roots


In its diversity, the American national soccer (football) team reflects the American population. One player proud of his roots abroad is Nigerian-American Oguchialu Onyewu, who is representing the USA in the Confederations Cup on his parents' home continent.

Generally considered one of the better defenders ever produced by the United States, center back Oguchialu Onyewu has an off the field story just as remarkable as his on field exploits.

Born in Washington, DC, the son of Nigerian immigrants, and having played his professional soccer in countries across Europe, the tall American has put down roots on several continents.

Match is 'big deal'

With 45 appearances on the U.S. national team leading up to Wednesday's showdown with Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinal, Onyewu says his play in the tournament in South Africa is important to his family members on the African continent, as well as American soccer fans.

"Obviously it is a big deal for a lot of my family members who still live in Africa and see me play, and a sense of pride to see one of their family members playing in this sort of tournament," he said. "But all that said, I'm wearing the red white and blue, and I am representing the United States of America."

Fans call him Gooch

Onyewu's full given name is Oguchialu Chijioke Goma Lambu, but he shortens his name to Oguchi for soccer purposes, and is known by the nickname of Gooch. This year's tournament and next year's World Cup are important events for the African continent as a whole, Gooch says.

"Obviously this is a big deal for both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup to be here in Africa at a stage like this, so I am sure the continent as a whole has a feeling of pride," he continued.

The six foot four inch tall defender has become a prized transfer target of teams across the European continent, after completing his contract with Belgian club Standard Liege last month. Onyewu has been linked with teams from England to Turkey, but is yet to nail down a destination to play his club football in the fall.

Ready to take on Spain

In the meantime, Onyewu is content to have advanced with the American team to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, where they take on Spain in Bloemfontein Wednesday night. Pleased with his time in South Africa, the veteran player and traveler says he sees little difference between the culture here and elsewhere he has played.

"Right now it is winter time and the climate is different," said Onyewu. "But other than that I think everyone is the same everywhere in the world. I don't really see too much difference in people."

Onyewu and his American teammates hope to move on to the final of the Confederations Cup with a victory over Spain. Should they advance, the Americans would be playing their first ever final of a FIFA tournament.

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