Q & A with Christian Ibeagha

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Christian Ibeagha Shares What Got him Discovered

Christian Ibeagha is a professional footballer with the Oklahoma City Energy FC. 

A graduate of Duke University, he has also played professional football with The North Carolina Football Club, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, the Bohemians Praha 1905 and the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Christian was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

How old were you when you moved to the States?

I was eleven years old when my family moved o the U.S.  We moved first to Elk City, Oklahoma. 

Did you learn to play soccer in the U.S. or Nigeria?

I had always been able to kick a ball and play around a little bit, but I hadn’t really played official organized soccer until I moved to the U.S.

You played on the U-23 National Team in Nigeria.  Do you feel there was a difference in the way you were trained in Nigeria compared to your training here in the US.

Coming from youth soccer and youth national teams, the level was definitely higher as well as the physicality competing and training with bigger, stronger and faster players.

There has been focus on some smaller players who may have been overlooked at their younger ages because of their size.  Were you always tall for your age or did you have a late growth spurt? 

I have always been slightly taller than my peers but I have seen players shoot up later in their development.  But that being said, soccer is a game in which people of all sizes, frames and athletic ability can thrive and succeed.  It’s really a game of smarts and technique.  There are plenty of players who may be stronger or faster, but haven’t been as successful as others because of their lack of soccer IQ or technical ability.

What do you credit for having gotten you noticed as a player?

As a defender, I was noticed at a young age for my size and my presence.  I have always tried to be a very vocal player always communicating with teammates.  That is always valuable to a player at any level, especially a defender.

What three (3) traits do you feel are most important in a defender?

  1. Reading the game well/anticipation
  2. Communication
  3. Aggressiveness

If you had the opportunity to play professionally right after high school, as opposed to getting your college degree first, would you have?  Why or why not?

Coming out of high school, I did want to play professionally right away.  My parents actually steered me towards going to school and getting an education before doing so. 

It’s a tough decision to make at times.  on one hand, there’s the notion that in order to maximize our career, one needs to get into a professional environment as soon as possible.  On the other, plenty of kids don’t quite grow enough mentally to succeed as a pro so one could spend those years maturing and furthering their education. 

It’s really a tough call that I feel is unique to each individual case separately.  While it may be good for one kid to forgo or postpone university, it may not be good for another.  I do know that when I was almost out of high school, my mind was set solely on professional career.

Do you have any plans for what you will do after retirement?

I have dabbled a bit with some ideas.  Having such a profound love of the game, I could see myself staying in football whether it be via coaching or something on the business side of it.  I have also thought of stepping away from the game entirely, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s where my heart is.

What advice would you give the young player who hopes to play professionally?

There’s a lot of advice I could touch on.  I guess the most important piece I’ve acquired that I could share is the fact that it will not always be rosy and pretty.  Be sure that the love and passion for the game is still there and then push through those times. 

As a player, you will fail more times than you succeed.  You will get cut and released more times than you sign contracts.  But every failure, every cut, every “no” you are faced with will be instrumental to your development and growth as both a player and a human being.