By Dave Thomas | La Mesa Courier
Given the popularity of soccer in the greater San Diego area, it should not come as a surprise that there is a new men’s team getting set for play in early 2020.
With that in mind, a tryout was held in late December for more than 100 area soccer players. The goal in mind was earning a professional contract to play for the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club (SD Loyal). One player chosen would be sponsored and have the opportunity of a lifetime.
As part of the USL Championship season, the Loyal are slated to open their home season in early March at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium. The league is a Division USSF-sanctioned league with more than 30 clubs spread out across the U.S. and Canada. The Loyal are led by chairman Andrew Vassiliadis, the youngest principal owner in USL Championship.
When the tryouts took place this past December, one of the local participants was La Mesa resident Yohann Ahou.
A native of the Ivory Coast, Ahou was one of those given the opportunity to try out for the team. Ahou, who plays for the club team at San Diego State University, has been living in the San Diego area for five years.
While Ahou did not earn a spot on the team following the tryout, it was a great experience nonetheless. He was put on a shortlist should the team need extra players down the road.
“In the country where I am from, soccer is played at every corner of the streets, from the youngest to the oldest,” Ahou commented. “We get introduced to the game really early and just have fun with friends every day playing soccer. I started playing soccer at around 5 years old.”
For Ahou, the opportunity to try out and be seen by soccer pros was quite exciting.
Among those overseeing the tryout was soccer legend and California native Landon Donovan. Donovan, who serves as executive vice president of soccer operations for the team, won a record six championships during his years in Major League Soccer (MLS).
“It was an honor to finally see Donovan talking in front of me, remembering that I was watching him on TV when he was playing in England and with the LA Galaxy,” Ahou went on to say. “I will keep working hard and I am confident this new year will bring many good surprises.”
With the rise in soccer popularity, Ahou sees San Diego as a logical city to host another team.
“To me, San Diego is a city that breathes soccer, and it will breathe soccer even stronger with a local team,” Ahou commented. “Having a pro team around will help develop this great potential and improve the quality of the players. A local pro team will do nothing but strengthen this soccer culture in San Diego.”
As Ahou rightfully sees it, his future in the game he loves looks bright.
“While playing college soccer for Cuyamaca and SDSU [where he is a senior], I gained valuable experiences and keep improving every day,” Ahou remarked. “I keep looking for opportunities to go at the higher level and by the grace of God, I will sign a pro contract and achieve my goal (and childhood dream) to become a professional soccer player.”
Ahou also wants local youngsters out there to have such dreams, too.
“Through soccer you will learn lots of life lessons such as respect to others, hard work, perseverance, humility and the life within a group, etc. Make sure you understand and apply them in your daily actions. Above all, I would just say enjoy and love it because that is what keeps you going through the ups and downs,” Ahou added.
For one Yohann Ahou, there are sure to be many more ups than downs when it comes to his love of playing soccer.
— Dave Thomas is a local freelance sports writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.