Soccer Is A Real Man’s Sport: CJ Sapong
interview by: iman n. milner
Soccer player CJ Sapong stands at a very handsome 6’1, is finishing up a successful first professional season with US Soccer Team ‘Sporting Kansas City’ and is refreshingly kind. With his country boy charm, he hails from Virginia, Sapong broke down what it takes to be at the top of his game and why soccer is anything but a second rate sport.
Edge: What should our readers know about the man you are?
Cj Sapong: I’m a professional soccer player. I’ve played one professional season and I’ve had a couple successes but as far as I am concerned, I’ve got so much more to accomplish. I am happy with my progression as a person and as an athlete. I’m really motivated and my only focus is becoming the best that I can be. I work hard at everything that I do but I know how to have fun when it’s time to. Overall, I just appreciate the position I am because I know so many people would love to be in it.
Edge: Very humble words from a young athlete. Your sport is a lot different from what we’re used to watching here in the States. What would you say is the biggest misconception about soccer?
CJ Sapong: A lot of people think soccer is a wussy sport and I don’t know where that idea came from. They also think it’s a sport just for foreigners, it hasn’t really taken off as big as it has in other parts of the world. It seems like it’s hard for people to welcome it here because it didn’t originate here but the game is way more physical than people think.
Edge: Tell me a little bit about how you ended up choosing soccer as a profession.
CJ Sapong: Well I was born and raised in Virginia about 25 mins outside of DC and I grew up playing a lot of sports but my parents are both Ghanian so the only one they could really help me with was soccer. That was a sport the understood and could enjoy with me, so I gravitated towards that. I played in high school and ended up getting a scholarship for college because of it…the plan was never to do it professionally…it was more of a means to an end. But towards the beginning of my senior season people really started showing interest in me as a player and I started considering it…and here we are.
Edge: What do you think you’ve learned about yourself during this first season as a pro athlete?
CJ Sapong: I’ve learned so much–things that you don’t even notice when you’re just going through your everyday life, you notice when you’re thrown in to completely new circumstances. Throughout other parts of your life, you sort of know what to expect but once you get out of the mundane school stuff and you’re thrown into something, you have to accelerate your growth. I’ve learned something new everyday of the season but the most important things were the things I learned about me mentally. I found out what helps me play to the best of my ability. It’s nice to be able to pinpoint what I need to perform at the highest level, so that I can recreate that over and over again. You can translate that into anything, not just soccer.
Edge: So let’s talk about the ladies. Does the MLS get groupie love like the NBA or NFL?
CJ Sapong: (laughs) Well, I don’t know anything about the NBA or NFL because I don’t play for those leagues…and…well, all I’ll say is that the ladies are very supportive of our team. They understand the game.
Edge: Good answer! What’s a normal schedule for a professional soccer player? How often do you practice?
CJ Sapong: We practice everyday except the day after games. We pay a lot of attention to detail. We’re 14-0 right now but we’ve made a lot of mistakes that could have swung the game in a different direction. It’s an 8 month season with about 34 games, you’re traveling everywhere–so the intensity is there as far as being conditioned to survive until the end of your season.
Edge: What team do you most like to play against?
CJ Sapong: In our league, every game is going to be a tough one. I’m a forward, so I’m going up against players who are known for being bigger and more physical. I prefer going up against teams with players who aren’t afraid to get physical. If I have to name a specific team, I guess I’ll name The Galaxy because everyone will know who they are (laughs). The LA Galaxy is a team full of really experienced players who’ve been very successful, so I take that opportunity to learn a little from them.
Edge: What do you do off the field?
CJ Sapong: Off the field I do a lot of napping and chilling, honestly. Training becomes taxing when you’re watching videos and getting treatments on nagging injuries all season. After that all you want to do is just take some time to relax. I hang out a lot with my teammates, we roller skate around town and try to enjoy life as much as possible.
Edge: What advice would you give to a player hoping to follow in your footsteps?
CJ Sapong: You have to put yourself in the right situations and stay mentally present. You have to put all your effort in to what you’re doing. It’s easy to say you want to do something but it’s nothing without the committed action behind it.
Edge: What would you like your legacy to be?
CJ Sapong: I just want it to be that no matter how far I got or didn’t get, I worked hard as I possibly could and enjoyed every bit of it. I want to bring other people around me up. It’s not about how many championships you win. It’s about how many people you affect or whose growth you spur. When you’re blessed to be in this position, there’s a debt you have to pay.
Edge: What does living a life on the Edge mean to you?
CJ Sapong: Taking risks and not falling back on the easy way out. Testing your limits and pushing your boundaries. It’s fun when you reach new heights but staying complacent isn’t cool. Living on the Edge is using every new accomplishment as motivation to do more.
Photos by Gary Hughes