Updated: April 12, 2006






On June 12th when

USA plays Czech Republic

to begin the World Cup

in a strange place

Gelsenkirchen Germany

very alien to Americans

another unfamiliar name

may hold the Key to

USA’s potential

Meet your fellow American Oguchi Onyewu. Born 23 years ago in the shadow of the nation’s capital, right in Washington, DC, and raised nearby in Silver Spring, Maryland by his Nigerian born parents, may be USA’s secret weapon.

Secret in that most Americans will first learn of him when the World Cup coverage begins. Weapon because he may be one of the finest Defensemen around. And you don’t have to know a lot about Soccer to appreciate that Defense is what it is all about in this low scoring sport.

While today’s Box is all about Onyewu. It is also about more. 2 more issues to be specific underpin this story. Soccer itself which American in general are becoming more comfortable. Most of all with each new 4 year cycle of World Cups. This sport which has captured the imagination of virtually the entire World for more than a century, is the most popular in Earth, and continues to grow in popularity can just as well become as widely enjoyed in these United States. If we let it.

The other always present issue is the place more to the point the potential place of African Americans in Soccer. Another Sport in which African Americans will either make a major mark or be rarely seen. As in so many sports. The difference here between some of those other sports and Soccer is that soccer is Big Time. Soccer isn’t for example Rowing. Black America can find serious financial and career potential in Soccer. Not only here in the USA but all over the world most of all in Soccer Crazy Europe.

Africa itself the continent of Africa should be enough of an example to convince Black America both the value of Soccer and the vast potential African Americans can bring to the Sport. Pro Soccer in Europe is chock full of players recruited from Africa. Even as they endure some Nastiness.

Sorry Oguchi we’ll get back to you in a Moment

but this Discussion is very important

Right now. Over the next few years. The pattern is going to be set in the U.S. within the African American community itself and within the structure of Soccer the place African Americans will hold in the Sport. It is clear from lots of other history if there are no “forces” within the Black community nationally urging young Black boys and girls to Soccer, the result will be yet another Sport which Blacks grow up alienated from. That has already happened to an extent.

But with Soccer’s popularity in the U.S. only recently developing to any meaningful extent that pattern of ‘”self exclusion” is not yet fully institutionalized. But that is a serious Danger. As it has happened in Sport after Sport and once those cultural patterns take hold that a Sport is “not a Black sport” then both inside the African American community and as perniciously even more so in White America it becomes the permanent “norm” that Black players will be a Rarity.

Indeed it can be very credibly argued as we do all the time in the Box there is an underlying core imperative build right into the American sub conscious psyche always seeks out a “norm” in which the exclusion of Black Americans in Sports for our purposes, but across the board in Reality, will always assert itself unless White America finds overwhelming value in accepting let alone encouraging African American participation. In football and basketball that kind of value is evident. Since this Value Factor does not appear in other Sports, Black Americans are very scarce or not present at all in many American Sports.

( by the way reference the situation at Duke University )

That pressure is ever present. For a time White America saw value in a young Black men in Baseball. Over time that value disappeared and now African Americans are Disappearing from Baseball. Even in Football and Basketball the 2 exceptions there is no certainty that over the next 20-50 years African Americans may not suffer the same Fate as in Baseball.

We already see the possible emergence of that pattern in Basketball.

The destructive reality in Sport after Sport is beyond Dispute. The evidence abounds since Slavery itself. African Americans ae encouraged in Sports only when and as long as needed. Period.

Which brings us back to Oguchi Onyewu


we are back to Soccer at least

Soccer can and will do well. Continue to expand in the United States with a few African American stand outs like Oguchi Onyewu, Freddy Adu and a few others, and remain as White as it largely has been. Unless African Americans decide otherwise. Black America came to dominate Football and Basketball certainly not because White America begged young Black kids to take up these Sports. Just the opposite. For the longest time African Americans were excluded from these 2 sports at the college and pro level.

What changed is this

and it is all important

as simple as it is

African Americans

began showing up.

Meaning lots of Black kids took up Basketball and Football in their own communities and it became IMPOSSIBLE for the White power structure in the 2 sports to ignore so much talent that could add immeasurably to their programs and their teams. As that realization developed discrimination ( be it somewhat hidden in many cases ) began to recede. And then recede even further.

And as African Americans became accepted in “mainstream” Football and Basketball and prove pivotal on team after team their economic value to White America overwhelmed all the prejudice. On the field and the court.

Not off or or even near it. To this day. To make a Point there are still virtually no African Americans executives or owners and few coaches even in Football and Basketball. Because White America sees no absolute need for inclusion and diversity at those levels.

So what’s the Point for Soccer

it sure better be Obvious

or all is Lost

Either a concerted effort gets underway in the African American community coast to coast to ramp up Soccer, to embrace Soccer, to love Soccer, if NOT Soccer will be largely LOST to Black America. As with Basketball and Football if lots of Black kids play Soccer as the success of Soccer grows and grows and following the exact same pattern as Football and Soccer, college recruiters and pro scouts will increasingly look to better their teams by recruiting African American players.

But here is the other Points

White America will not Beg

will not even encourage

young African Americans

to play Soccer

White America and the Soccer industry will live very well indeed and never lose a night’s sleep if all they have is an occasional Black star like Oguchi Onyewu on their Teams. And even more they will “abuse” their few Black stars by using their PR machines to make it appear those teams are fully integrated when they are not. American Sports loves Tokenism.

Which really does bring us back

to Oguchi Onyewu Finally

Here is a kid now a Young Man who began as a pre-teen playing both basketball and soccer but made the decision he was better at and enjoyed soccer more. But let’s keep a couple of facts in mind. His parents were born and raised in Nigeria which means they knew Soccer and Soccer would have been a presence in their household even in America. The other fact is Silver Springs, Maryland is not anyone’s idea of an African American community.

Which means Oguchi came up through a largely white suburban school system which as do all such school systems literally “glorify” soccer as a participant sport for their young male and female students.

Want to bet that if Oguchi Onyewu’s parent had been African American and if young Onyewu had grown up in Watts we might be writing about him today as a stellar basketball or football player but very unlikely as an emerging Soccer star who may anchor the American team in the World Cup in June.

So the bottom line is

The Onus is on the African American community and Leadership most of all to make it better for young Black Americans in Soccer and all other Sports. White America is not going to do it. At most once found they will elevate someone like Oguchi Onyewu or Freddy Adu or DaMarcus Beasley but White America will not take the initiative ….

……. and create widespread interest in Black communities. They don’t think it is their job. And worse they see no self-serving value in doing so. Since the Problem is obvious and clearly identified, is the reason the solution or the blame falls at the feet of the African American community.

It is self help or Nothing. The Real World.

As for Oguchi Onyewu and his life in Soccer

you know what

The Washington Post printed an impressive and lengthy 4 page sketch of Onyewu in Tuesday’s issue that will tell you everything about him. No need to try and duplicate the excellent work of Post reporter Steven Goff here. We would do better to direct you to the Washington Post Website and the article

Washington Post Onyewu Sketch


For our part here today

we will conclude


Oguchi Onyewu

and root for him

and USA at

the World Cup