Aug. 12, 2009

By Amy Farnum
NCAA.com

Preseason soccer practice may just be gearing up to start, but the Sarkodie family already has the Akron-Indiana match highlighted on their schedules.  It will not only be a battle between two nationally-ranked foes, but between brothers.

Ofori, a senior at Indiana, and Kofi, a sophomore at Akron, have played the sport together all of their lives, and on Sept. 18 they will get once last chance to face each other on the collegiate field at the University of Akron Tournament. 

The pair, along with older brother Kwame shares a love of the game, and a talent for it.  All three have played collegiately, with Kwame a former starter at Cincinnati, who now plays professionally for the Rochester Rhinos.

“It’s in the blood – the passion that we have for the game,” said Ofori.  “We all started playing at a very young age, and played with each other to a certain point until we started to branch off.”

“Those two were always at it, so naturally when I was growing up I always wanted to beat them,” said Kofi.  “We would play forever -- we would play every day until night fall.”

The Sarkodies have each been successful at their respective universities – Ofori was a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2007, while Kofi was a freshman All-American last year – and both have done it with their own unique styles of play.

“We’re very different, but very similar in how we think about the game,” said Ofori.  “We’re very different in how we execute.  I’m very tactical, Kofi likes the ball at his feet and likes to be involved in every single play, and my older brother is almost like a firecracker – he has such explosive speed.”

Kofi, who recently returned from Ireland with the U.S. U-18 National Team, mostly credits his older brothers for his accomplishments as such a young age.

“They’ve taught me just about everything,” said Kofi.  “Between them and having the experiences with the national team, they’ve really opened up my eyes.  There are certain things you don’t learn about the game until you reach a certain age, so having my brothers ahead of me they were showing me things at an earlier age.  I always felt I had a little edge on my peers.”

Although they were born in the United States and grew up in Ohio, the brothers are African royalty from their parents’ native land of Ghana.  Their maternal grandmother is the Queen mother in the city of Kuamsi, Ghana, and the culture still remains a part of their lives, despite being a world away.

“I have never been to Ghana, but when my grandmother came here to visit, she taught my brothers and me the native language of Twi,” said Ofori.  “I’m very closely connected to my culture, but unfortunately I’ve never had the time to go.  I’m hoping within the next couple years to go there and meet all my relatives and extended family.”

Their birth name Sarkodie might mean “strong as an eagle”, but both Ofori and Kofi know it will be tough to fly away with a victory in this presumed defensive struggle between the No. 7 Hoosiers and No. 3 Zips.  The brothers, who are both defenders, will each be trying for a repeat of last year’s 0-0 tie between the two squads.

“I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game again, so probably whoever is more on point in front of the net is going to be able to clinch the game,” said Kofi.  “It’s going be really tight.”

The duo probably will not talk strategy before the game, but the topic of soccer will most likely come up in conversation.
“Anytime soccer does come up we like to joke about it and give each other a hard time when we drop a goal or lose to a team or have a close game,” said Ofori.  “When we get to watch each other’s games on TV, we take notes and try to give each other pointers, and that includes my older brother.”

Akron, which led the nation with a 0.45 goals against average last year, will host Indiana in the Akron Tournament on Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m.