Reuben Ayarna: Boston College
Bluechip: Having spent time playing collegiate fotboll in the USA, many would say that you took a “non-traditional” route to the professional soccer scene. How did this experience shape the footballer you are today?
Ayarna: Making the move to the United States helped me adjust to living alone in a different environment outside of Ghana, forcing me to interact and understand a different culture and people. The collegiate game really helped develop my fotboll mentality, mental toughness and the physical aspect of my game.
Bluechip: You are fortunate to have had a great professional career starting with GAIS, a fan favorite, and now BK Häcken. Can you share a little bit about the perks of being a professional footballer in Sweden?
Ayarna: I am very thankful for where I am today. It has been a dream come true playing for both clubs, and I am really enjoying my time with Häcken. I am here through the summer and then we will see what happens. I will always be grateful for what GAIS did for me. They offered me a contract and an opportunity when no one else did. The fans always treated me well. Although the Swedish league is not the biggest league, I have enjoyed every single game I have played. Playing professional fotboll in Europe is a blessing and I am just happy I made that step. It is a dream of every footballer to make it, train with great talents, great teammates, and learn new things everyday. On top of that you have a wonderful city like Gothenburg to live in. The professional lifestyle is obviously more fun when you are relaxed and enjoying everyday whether in training or a game. However it can be very stressful, especially when the team is not performing well or when your contract is running out and you don’t know what lies ahead, or if you live in a city that you can’t enjoy. The lifestyle has its advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole the pros outweigh the cons.
Bluechip: Although you did not spend an entire 4 years at Boston College, you made a huge impact while you were there, earning a full scholarship and winning a league championship in 2007. How did you find the collegiate experience from the standpoint of a student-athlete? Would you recommend it to others?
Ayarna: I would definitely recommend the collegiate route to many players who do not get the direct opportunity to move to the professional game. Collegiate soccer is a good stepping-stone and most of the USA players in Europe and MLS can testify to that. The great thing about college is that once a person is done, he or she has two options, finish your education and find a really good job or pursue a professional fotboll contract if the opportunity arises.
Bluechip: What would you say was the most valuable thing you took away from your collegiate experience?
Ayarna: In college a person develops lifelong friendships and invaluable relationships. Alejandro Bedoya, Charlie Davies and I are still good friends. My Boston College coach, Ed Kelly, is like my second dad. We talk all the time. Getting to play football and go to school for free was incredible. Boston is a beautiful city and it was nice to experience a different culture. I learned how to be an open-minded person and living abroad taught me a lot about who I was as a person. It was a really great experience.
Bluechip: Have you been able to finish your degree since leaving Boston College? If so or not, do you think that it’s important for young men and women to have an education to fall back on if professional football does not work out?
Ayarna: No, I have not been able to finish my degree yet. I’ve been lucky to be able to place all of my focus on the game and down the road I will see what happens. To have a degree is very important. It is a great plan B. All that being said, we should look at the time we are in now. How many people really want to work day jobs, how many degree holders are unemployed? Most people I know are not even pursuing a job that relates to their degree. Yes it’s important to have an education to fall back on, but I think we all have to find out what makes us happiest and pursue it. Everyone has different goals and ambitions. But if a person has the chance to get a great education while playing football one should take it.
Bluechip: Last but not least, you are originally from Ghana, what do you miss most from home?
Ayarna: What I miss most is the weather, the community, and the food!
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