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Soccer player Celine Ottah rises to the top

Growing up in Aba, Nigeria, Celine Ottah had one passion in life – soccer. With a ball at her feet, Ottah believed she could take on the world, and nothing was going to stop her dreams from someday becoming a reality.

“When I was young, I played soccer in the streets every day with boys, barefooted,” said Ottah. Ottah’s connection to soccer and her very first steps in her journey can be said to be extremely different from many young upcoming soccer players in America, yet her passion for the game prevailed as she landed a scholarship to Polk State, FL.

Ottah joined the Bobcats in the 2023 fall season and was a major contributor to their national success. Having scored 19 goals and assisting seven in all competitions, Ottah’s keen eye for goal was evident from the outset. Her tenacious attacking mentality enabled her to score six game-winning goals for Jones over the regular conference season as well as during the National Tournament.

“Being part of the group that won the first national title for Jones is something really special,” said Ottah.

Ottah contributed four goals to the 12-goal campaign of the Lady Bobcats National Tournament run, scoring the second goal in the 3-0 victory against the Johnson County Cavaliers in the final.

Not only did Ottah manage to secure a National Championship win with the Bobcats during her first season, but she was also awarded a plethora of accolades to acknowledge her success during the season. Claiming a first in the program’s history, Ottah received the United Soccer Coaches Player of the Year award for her contributions to Jones’s successful season. She was further named the Most Valuable Player during the National Tournament as well as being named in the All-American First Team, All-East Region Team and the All-MACCC First Team. Ottah’s clean sweep of awards demonstrated the highlights of her emphatic fall season that she hopes to continue as the spring season begins.

Although known for her soccer abilities, Ottah is also a nursing major at Jones, and she wishes to graduate with her nursing degree from a Division 1 university while still pursuing her soccer career. Ottah, as a sophomore, will be able to continue this dream as she leaves Jones at the end of this academic year.

“I want to play for the best teams in the world,” said Ottah as she listed her ambitions for the future. “I want to represent Nigeria at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Olympics, Africa Cup of Nations while competing at the highest level in women’s soccer.”

Ottah’s aspirations depict her true passion for the sport of soccer and her belief that someday she will be able to complete all of her goals for her career. Yet Ottah understands the difficulty of these tasks and how they would not even be possible without constant hours of hard work, training and desire to be the best she can be.

As an international student living in a completely different country and immersed in its culture, Ottah is already making sacrifices to propel her career forward as she leaves family members and close friends behind. As every athlete understands, sacrifices are inevitable and must be made for the chance at success and opportunities. Yet, for student-athletes such as Ottah, their sacrifices may be a little tougher to make as they bout with homesickness, having to adapt to a completely new way of life and having to deal with the pressure of performing week in and week out for their respective sport.

Ottah is a player who thrives under pressure, constantly providing for the Lady Bobcats in times of need. All of her achievements are a testament to her resilient and passionate character as she encapsulates what it means to be an international student-athlete as her desire to be the best constantly drives her to new levels of competition.

Ottah is no doubt a rising star and somebody who should be watched closely in the future. More is to come from the young Nigerian player, and it is more than possible that everyone will see her on TV screens one day playing for the Nigerian national team in a World Cup.

Boo Mills

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