For Ekenam Ofili, these are happy days as he is the only Nigerian on the Michigan State University (MSU) Men's Club Soccer Team, in the US, who won their first National Championship last Saturday night. The 21-year-old scored two goals in the match which made the team the US champions for the year.
After a lone goal scored by Matt Kaminski against Cincinnati at the Regional Tournament, the team progressed to the Regional Semi-Final but lost out in a penalty kick shootout against Illinois. Notwithstanding, it had already secured its return to the NIRSA National Tournament.
The team eventually qualified for the Championship game for the first time in the program's history. In order to win the Championship, they would have to defeat defending National Champions Weber State.
In the final match of the tournament, the MSU backline was constantly challenged by Weber State described as 'very athletic and very big'. But the MSU center back combination of Sophomore Brad Sauchak and Junior Andrew Phinney held strong and kept Weber State away from their goal.
Mike Nickerson was also in rotation for the whole tournament with Brad and Andrew - the three of them were very strong in the air and really limited Weber State chances. Late in the first half the team created a great scoring chance as Ofili was sent into the box with a great through ball. He was able to fire a low cross to a sprinting Adam Kundinger who put the ball just over the cross bar.
In the second half MSU carried play and created some great scoring chances, but the game ended with neither team scoring. After an extra time period where MSU dominated including having a Matt Kaminski effort saved off the goal line, the National Championship would be decided with penalty kicks.
Ofili said: "Ron Dewberry suffered an injury and was unable to take part in the shoot out. We were up first and Matt Kaminski scored his penalty kick. Ryan Lovell guessed correctly on Weber State's first kick, but it was just out of his reach. Our second shooter was Tanner Higgins, who also converted his spot kick. Ryan then saved Weber State's second penalty to give the Spartans an advantage. Because Ron was unable to take a penalty, Adam Kundinger became the 3rd shooter and he also scored his kick to increase the pressure on the Weber State shooters. Ryan became a hero when he saved the 3rd Weber State effort to give the Spartans the opportunity to win the National Championship with the 4th penalty shooter. Max Washko coolly and calmly walked to the spot and easily converted his kick to give the Spartans their first National Championship".
At the end of the tournament, each player was awarded a medal followed by individual awards for which Ofili received the All-Tournament-Team recognition along with Max Washko and Andrew Phinney.
Most Valuable Goalkeeper went to Ryan Lovell as Matt Kaminski was awarded Most Outstanding Player".