By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Before the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer team faced Bucknell, the Bona sports information department found a creative way to tweet out the starting 11:
When you have five countries represented in your lineup, why not throw some flag emojis in there?
The team has 12 players who were born outside of the United States, or 41 percent of its roster. There are five players from Canada, two from England, and one each from Ghana, Nigera, Scotland, Spain and Hong Kong.
According to Tom Missel, SBU’s Director of Media Relations, there are 49 undergraduate international students at SBU and 33 are Division I athletes: 12 male soccer players, six male tennis players, five female tennis players, three male basketball players, three baseball players, three female soccer players and one female swimmer.
There were also 33 international undergrad student-athletes the last time we did a story on this in 2011, but there were 11 fewer total international students; only five were not athletes.
Men’s soccer coach Kwame Oduro, who was born in Accra, Ghana and grew up in Toronto, said the United States was the obvious choice for soccer players who want to go to college.
“Every good soccer player that wants an education wants to come to America,” he said. “There is no country in the world that combines athletics and academics like the U.S. So if you want the experience of playing high level soccer, receiving a degree and possibly playing in the Major League Soccer (MLS), America is the best place to go.”
Men’s soccer junior midfielder Kieran Toland, a Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland native, came to Bonaventure after completing a year of college back home. He wanted to keep playing, but going pro in Scotland is a tough proposition.
“One of my buddies actually came over before me, and he told me it was the best thing he’d ever done,” he said. “So I looked into it, found a company and I went and did the trial with them. Then I told my mom and dad about it after and they thought it was a great idea and loved the thought of it.”
Out of the D-I offers Toland received, Bonaventure stood out thanks to Mel Mahler, Oduro’s predecessor, who made it clear he really wanted him. When Toland started as a freshman, there were only four international players on the team. Now, that number has tripled.
“It’s a great experience and was the best choice,” Toland said. “There are so many athletes now who want to come to America and play for a school like Bonaventure.”