New soccer promotion unites Greenville
WED.| 3-1-23 | SPORTS
On Jan. 17, local soccer team Greenville United announced their promotion to the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). This achievement is the product of years of hard work and determination from people across the globe.
Aaron Okwei, head coach of Greenville United since their formation in 2020, moved to Greenville from Accra, Ghana a little over 10 years ago. While in Ghana, Okwei played in the second division of professional soccer for the Dzodze Desert Warriors. Almost immediately after moving to America, he realized the difference in the popularity of soccer between his own country and America. Okwei was recently given the role of Director of Football, where he will recruit new players, monitor the condition of current players and communicate his findings to the coaches.
“In Ghana, soccer is considered the national sport and is deeply rooted in the culture,” Okwei said. “I would say while soccer is a beloved sport in both Ghana and the United States, it is much more deeply rooted in the culture and daily life of
Photo courtesy of Rampant Lines archive
Ghanaians, and is considered to be a more important part of the Ghanaian national identity.”
Okwei realized that not only is there a large difference in the popularity of soccer overseas, but there are also noticeable differences between central and eastern North Carolina.
“I realized we didn’t have a structured team here in Greenville,” Okwei said. “Most of the kids that I knew that wanted to play had to go to Raleigh or different cities to play.”
In the NPSL, Greenville will play teams as close as the Appalachians, and as far as Seattle. But when the team first began playing competitively, they were a part of the First Flight League (FFL), including teams from around North Carolina, such as Gastonia Football Club and Levi United. However, this was not enough for them.
“In our first season with the First Flight League, we came in third place, then placed second in our second season, and this past season, we won the league,” Okwei said. “I think it became clear with our consistent improvement that we were more than prepared to play at a higher level.”
After a short time in the FFL, the team was clearly ready for promotion.
“I was ecstatic,” Greenville United player and Rose alumni Johnathan Makoko said. “We talked about how the whole process was going to work out, and pretty much from there we just kept it on the hush.”
The NPSL consists of over 90 teams spread across the country and comprise 13 conferences. Each conference is a part of one of four regions. Teams compete across their conference and region to qualify for the playoffs, where they have the opportunity to win the NPSL National Championship. Greenville United players and staff believe this promotion and increased publicity is not just an achievement for them, but for the city of Greenville.
“[It brings] the community together,” Okwei said. “It’s Greenville United, the name speaks for itself, this is putting the city on a national level.”