GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) — Greenville United is a semi-pro soccer organization putting Greenville on the pro soccer map.
A love of the game and a mission to grow the sport in the east, has Greenville United poised to step up through the ranks.
“Everyone has a position to play. It teaches you a lot about discipline, teamwork and working with others to achieve a common goal,” says Aaron Okwei, founder of Greenville United.
Ghanaian Aaron Okwei moved to Greenville a few years ago and applied the lessons learned on the football field.
“I realized there was no structured football system here,” says Okwei, “that’s where the idea came from.”
Greenville United was born in 2020. The semi-professional football team participated in the First in Flight League.
“Guys who played in college, now what’s next after college? They have families, they started working but still want to play competitively,” Aaron says, “We also have a group of young people like 17, 18 and 16 who want to go to university.
Aaron found players of all ages and from all walks of life in Greenville.
“It’s been a huge blessing to come to work at the hospital and also join this team,” says ECU Health doctor Jacob Vaught, who plays defense on the team, “A great way to let off steam. Then it grew from a hobby to something much bigger.
“I played in high school, I went to North Pitt High School,” says Octavio Espino, “he played four years at Chowan University and he came back.”
“I go to ECU, East Carolina University. I am senior. I’m a biology major. Football used to be more of a hobby,” says Muhamed Fofana, “But now it’s becoming something more serious.”
The team’s aspirations grew rapidly when Aaron met Michael McCarren.
“I contacted him just to see if he could help my son with the football,” said Greenville United chairman Michael McCarren, “Really, I tried to give back by taking that from the idea of have a football team to an organization.”
Thanks to tryouts, they have a qualified roster and they finished second in their league last year
“The situations we’ve been able to be part of as a team, the wins we’ve had recently,” Vaught says.
“We took on a few experienced players,” says Espino, “and I think we’re getting to where we need to be.”
But in a friendly match against Lionsbridge of the USL Two League…
“We’re playing teams in the league we hope to go to and we’re holding our ground,” Vaught said.
They realized they needed to accelerate their goal of turning pro in 2024 until this fall.
“This size of town and the fact that we’ve got ECU a college town, a huge opportunity for us,” McCarren says, “and really the time has come.”
“We want to start at USL 2, then USL 1 and then Championship,” SAID Okwei, “We have a good group of guys who can play at that level. The goal is to get to that level, to develop the guys, get them to this game and put Greenville on the map as well.
The goal not only to turn pro, but to continue to grow the sport in the East.
“We want to develop the game in the city, then in neighboring cities, then,” says Okwei.
Really, Greenville, USA.
“Hopefully we get to that national level where we’re recognized,” Aaron says, “and most of these kids can play at that level.”
They have already trained hundreds of children in their youth clinics. They plan to continue making them.
There is an October 31 deadline to join USL Two with a deposit.
They have a solid business plan but need more sponsors to seal the deal. If you would like more information, contact Aaron at 252-214-3258.
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