Oakland’s lucky charm


Nessa Ogbonna moved to the United States from her hometown of Tramore, Ireland to further her soccer career.

By Ally Racey

Oakland University is home to hundreds of students who come from different states and countries.

Nessa Ogbonna, a sophomore on the women’s soccer team, recently moved to the United States — thousands of miles away from her hometown of Tramore, Ireland.

“Being Irish is very special to me. I wasn’t born in Ireland, I was born in Nigeria, but moved when I was five so I grew up ‘Irish.’  Personally, I would consider myself Irish, but I’m a Nigerian and Irish citizen,” she said.

Ogbonna came to the U.S. not just for a good education opportunity, but also to further her soccer career.

“I’ve known close friends that have come to America for college soccer and every time they came back they had great experiences and the opportunity soccer-wise is second to none for women’s soccer anywhere else in the world. The best players have come through this system and I want to be one of them,” Ogbonna said.

Several universities stateside contacted Ogbonna, but she ended up a Golden Grizzly.

“I chose Oakland because it was one of the best college options I got, Division I soccer and a good college. I’m getting the best of both worlds academically and athletically,” Ogbonna said.

Before coming to Oakland, Ogbonna played soccer for Tramore AFC, her home club, since she was about seven years old. During that same time, she also played on county and interprovincial teams that offered extra training outside her main team.

In 2014 she signed with Cork City Women’s FC, a team in the Women’s National League in Ireland.

Ogbonna was a student-athlete at University College Cork in Ireland before coming to Oakland. 

“I really like the diversity involved in soccer. There’s different ways to play the game and make it beautiful,” Ogbonna added.

Ogbonna said it gets easier being away from her friends and family in Ireland.

“I see it as, I’m here for a reason, I came here out of my own will for an adventure to get something positive out of it so no matter how much I miss home, I’m in the best place to become the person I want to be and support from home really grounds me,” Ogbonna said.

The transition from Ireland to Michigan was difficult because she came at such a hot time of the year and found it hard to train in the humid conditions. 

“There were days at training when I had to sit out and I couldn’t last very long in games but I got used to it and loved the sun, then it got cold out of nowhere so I’m sad now and not looking forward to the snow at all,” Ogbonna said.

Ogbonna is already starting to lose her Irish accent.

“I’m starting to sound less Irish solely because no one used to understand my slang so I have to tone it down so I don’t have to explain every single word,” she said.

Ogbonna also mentioned being an athlete in the U.S. has a more positive reaction than in Ireland. 

“Being an athlete here feels much more of a privilege and it’s looked on greatly. It makes all the hard work we put in feel worth it because people appreciate that little bit more,” Ogbonna said. “You’re representing much more than yourself and team.”

Her goal for her team this season is to be known as people who don’t give up. 

“If our best is not enough then so be it, but I don’t want anyone to ever doubt that,” Ogbonna said. “I want everyone, as well as myself, to feel like ‘Yes we’re good, but we can always get better.”

Ogbonna and the rest of her team showed they are ready to make a comeback in the game against Valparaiso University Oct. 3. Ogbonna scored her second goal of the season, helping her team take home a 3-1 win.

The Golden Grizzlies will travel to Dayton, Ohio to compete against Wright State Oct. 10.