Sounders Insider

'When Saturday Comes' spotlights Zakuani

I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of the London soccer magazine, “When Saturday Comes," and I recently became a subscriber again. So, there I was looking through the October issue, when I turn the page and am blinding by familiar rave green uniforms.

Huh?, I think. What is Seattle Sounders FC doing in London's self-proclaimed "half decent football magazine"?

It turns out that they were doing a story on a small but apparently growing trend of U.K. soccer prospects choosing to develop their games at United States colleges. And their spotlight player is Zakuani -- unfortunately spelled "Zukuani" -- who went from the streets of London to the University of Akron and finally to the Sounders as the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft.

And -- as I write about in our Thursday paper -- Zakuani is a fine spokesman for the trend.

“At 18, I tried to go pro a bit back home, and I had some opportunities that I probably could have done,” he said after Sounders training today. “But I wouldn’t (have been) as good as I am now, after two years in college. I wouldn’t exchange that.”

He likes it so much, in fact, that he wants to make the opportunity of both soccer and studies available to more London kids like himself -- who usually have to choose between a serious soccer career or continuing an education.

Zakuani majored in sports management at Akron. He says he wants to go back and complete his degree. And he already knows how he wants to put that degree to use:

“A lot of my friends back home, they’re more talented than me, but they never had a chance,” Zakuani said. “So today they’re stuck in 9-to-5 jobs that they hate. So, if I could go back and meet kids like me in 10 years times, (I would like to) put them in an environment where they can train and develop their skills and hopefully go with the professional clubs and then go off to college. … Where I grew up, it wasn’t the London they see on the postcards. It was inner-city. There are a lot of kids who are going to be where I was, and they’re not all going to get an Akron scout to come and watch them. So if I can help, I definitely want to do that. That’s something that means a lot to me.”