By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Soccer has taken him around the globe. It, too, has brought him to new heights of personal and professional development, through leadership and on-the-field success.
AFC Mobile midfielder Eddie Dakwa sees every moment on and off the pitch as a learning and growing opportunity, and he’s worked diligently his whole life to make his career pursuits a reality.
In addition to his involvement with AFC Mobile as a player, Dakwa acts as an assistant coach when not in the lineup, a head coach in Mobile’s academy along with being a graduate assistant coach at the University of Mobile.
“It’s [player-coach] a role that I’ve actually fulfilled many times, especially as a college athlete because the coaches have always seen me as a player that they can speak to on a very mature level,” said Dakwa after being asked what his role is at AFC Mobile. “I’m able to be the connector between the squad and the coach, so my position as a player and also a coach is nothing new to me.”
Dakwa said that throughout his young, diverse and well-traveled career, he has confidently found his style of play in which he finds the most success. Naturally a center back, he transformed into a holding midfielder. Spatial awareness on the pitch and control of where the ball moves are two characteristics of his play in which he boasts the most.
Additionally, his deep knowledge of the game and first-hand playing experience have revealed the principles he uses daily in his sport career.
“How I live my life is that I pride myself on having integrity and honesty,” said Dakwa. “In my trade, I give it my all. I hold myself and others to very high standards because that’s what is going to take us to the next level. That even extends to my job as an academy coach.”
He continually practices what he preaches, whether that be patience working with others or having a determined work ethic because “nothing in life comes easily.”
This determined attitude rings true in his own soccer career, as the two-year-old from Harare, Zimbabwe moved with his family to the northern England city of Sheffield in the early 2000’s. Dakwa is always honest in saying that he started his playing at a far older age than normal, where an 11-year-old beginner (himself) has to immediately battle for their spot on the squad.
Jumping from grassroots leagues around the north-central countryside to academy teams of top-division clubs such as Sheffield United, Dakwa learned how to fight and compete. One neat testament of his global network is this: he is close friends with current Everton striker Dominic Culvert-Lewin, who coincidentally also wears a Hummel kit for the Toffees.
His passion then brought him stateside to Texas where he played junior college soccer before finishing his collegiate career at NCAA Division I Siena College in New York.
One teammate of Dakwa’s at Sienna, a fellow Sheffield native, recruited him to play summer matches with AFC Mobile, praising their head coach Steve Wieczorek as an esteemed and accomplished coach to play under. That was the start of a strong relationship between the two.
“He’s a tremendous player and coach, kids love him and I really wanted to do as much as I could for him,” said Wieczorek about having Dakwa on his team after the COVID-19 pandemic spoiled coaching opportunities at Spring Hill College in 2020 for both gentlemen.
“It’s been a revelation [having Dakwa on the team], to be quite honest, because of his knowledge of the game, his positional awareness and his ability to communicate with his teammates,” said Wieczorek. “He’s definitely been a key player for us at the middle of the field over the short season so far.”
With eyes on the future beyond a playing career, both Dakwa and Wieczorek are day-by-day recognizing the path that is forging ahead of his young career and future dreams.
“I always try and use my stories and [playing] experiences to pass down to younger generations, the younger players in the community on our team,” said Dakwa. “The game has given me everything. I’m very fortunate in that. The game has allowed me to have my education paid for. You name something, and it has probably had that big of an impact. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how influential football has been.”
He says that the sport “has taken me to new pastures,” opening his eyes to the greater intricacies within the game, thanks to the new lens of becoming a consistent coaching, managing figure.
“I would love hime to be able to play in as many games as possible this year, but I would prefer – more so than anything else – for him to continue to grow and blossom as an aspiring coach,” said Wieczorek.
“In a world we live in right now, it’s difficult to navigate things alone,” said Dakwa, commenting on his relationship with his teammates as a player-coach. “I also counsel with love and I try to be that helper where I can be for the youth of our club.”
Photo Credit: Seth Laubinger and James E. Cage Jr.