My name is Victor Chinenye Obetta; I am a college student, a soccer player, and a one-in-a-million story.
This story begins in Africa; I was born in Enugu State, Nigeria, where I lived a life surrounded by poverty. My family was ten people in total, and we lived in a three-bedroom apartment with one bathroom. In order to go to school, I had to walk fifteen miles because our city had no school buses, and my family was too poor to afford a car. School itself was not great; classroom sizes reached 150 people, and we would have to sit on the floor just to be able to get into the class. I valued education from a young age, so I was dedicated to being in every class no matter the circumstance. In addition to education, another love of mine was sports, specifically soccer. I dreamed of being a professional soccer player like Ronaldinho; he was my inspiration.
As a boy, we would play barefoot with a ball that was made out of bags, and it brought me such joy just to be able to play. All I ever wanted to be was a professional soccer player but you see, in my country, dreams are like stray cats- they’re worthless. It was so hard to make it out of Nigeria for any reason; the main goal for most Nigerians is to become a businessman and survive.
I wanted to do more than just survive.
I knew that there was so much more for me out there. I knew that if I tried my best, I could get a solid education, and continue my journey as a soccer player. And I knew that the only way I was going to be able to do such a thing was to move to the United States.
Although I had my sights set on making a move to a different country, nothing about this move was easy, in any sense. It seemed as though at every turn I made, there was another obstacle in my way. When I turned twenty-three, I moved to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, to live with my uncle, hoping that he would help me make it to the United States. My hopes and dreams rested on this man to be a guide, but in turn he did just the opposite. He wanted me to become a business man like him, and to focus on just making money to survive. He just didn’t value a proper education or soccer in the same way that I did. After living with him for a year, he kicked me out of his house, and for the first time in my life, I was homeless. It was a hard time, but luckily I had some friends in the city. It was a roof over my head, but it was not anything nice, and by not anything nice, I mean there were five of us sleeping in one room, on the floor. But it’s crazy, the things you’ll do for a dream.
While I was living in the city, I had heard about this program to study abroad and play soccer; in essence, my childhood dream. The program had an open tryout that cost me $100 to be a part of- I was nervous, but I was ready. In the tryout, I impressed one of the men there who happened to be an agent; after the event, he invited me into his office to speak. It was there that he showed me something incredible, something I didn’t believe I’d ever see- a contract that would send me to the United States on a scholarship. It was true, and it was real, I finally had my chance to do what I was always told was impossible. I was going to follow my dream.
The contract stated that I had to pay him $3500, with an upfront deposit of $1750. As a man who did not have much, you can understand that coming up with that kind of money was not going to be easy. I felt as though I was going to have to work for an extraordinarily long time to earn that money, and truthfully, I was not sure if I could. But just as things had magically come together to get me this far, along came one my mom’s brothers; my uncle, Kevin Ugwu. He did something truly extraordinary- he paved my way to America by paying for the agent fee. The dream was beginning to feel closer than it ever had.
New York- a long way from Nigeria, but its where I landed. The head coach of Genesee Community College, in Batavia, called me and wanted me on his team, and so that is where I was went. All those days of sitting on the floor to get an education were over; the dreams that I had when I was a boy of one day playing with a real soccer ball, real cleats, on a real field were finally coming true.
Or so I thought. Upon my arrival to the United States, I learned some information that put everything in jeopardy.
I had found out that my studies awaiting me in the United States were not actually on scholarship, and that with the economic issues in Nigeria, my Uncle was not going to be able to pay for my schooling. I was crushed. For the second time in my life, my plans were put on hold due to an insufficient amount of money. I was once again forced to put aside my education, and my dream of playing soccer was hanging on by a thread.
What happened next is the most amazing act of kindness that I have ever seen in my life.
I was attending Assembly of God, in Batavia, New York, and the people of that church blessed me in a way I could never have imagined. They banded together, and they paid for my first semester at Genesee, and because of them, I was able to stay at the school. I played soccer, I learned about new things I never knew existed and I even got a job on campus. In order to pay for my second semester, I took ninety percent of each of my paychecks and put it towards my bill.
As I continued at GCC, my life was filled with one blessing after another. I was able to keep playing soccer and got the education that I was beginning to think I would never get. In the fall of 2017, I transferred schools and began studying at Clarks Summit University. I studied as a business and sports management major, while being an important part of the soccer team. I was selected 2nd Team All-Conference as a midfielder my senior year and went on to graduate with honors in the spring.
My life has not been an easy one, but the lessons that I have learned and the things I have experienced are priceless. I have been given so much in my twenty-seven years of life, and my dreams are still alive because of the gifts I have been given. I am pursuing an OPT (optional practical training), then will go on to get my masters in Global Business. While doing all of this, I will continue to teach youth about soccer and about life. I want to one day make it back to my home city and give to all of the people that live there. I want to use the knowledge I have gained and my soccer abilities to make Nigeria a better place than it was when I was born. Possibly even become the President of my country. Who knows?
It all starts with a dream.