Eric Peterson, Published October 20 2010
Peterson: Concordia men's soccer looks overseas for talentDan Weiler went halfway around the world to find two key players – or did they find their way to him?
The Concordia head men’s soccer coach has an international flavor to his midfield – senior Marco Riboli is from Italy and senior Felix Okoth is from Africa.
While the Cobbers’ main recruiting areas are based in Fargo-Moorhead, the Minneapolis area and Montana, Weiler will gladly sprinkle in a few international players.
“International, in a way, has kind of been an icing on the cake so to speak,” Weiler said.
Weiler never saw either Riboli or Okoth played prior to them coming to Concordia, but both had connections to either the school or the area.
Riboli was an exchange student who went to a year of high school in Devils Lake, N.D., and visited the Concordia campus as he was pondering college choices at the time. Okoth had a friend, Ghalib Simai, on the Concordia team.
Simai is from Tanzania and played on the same school team with Okoth in Ghana.
“It’s as random as that,” Weiler said. “With the international players it is very difficult. There are times when we get film, times when we get players who have seen them or played with them.
“It’s just a matter of what their training situation was when they were younger and we really don’t know what some of that is. So we get a little bit lucky for sure.”
The Cobbers have hit the jackpot with Riboli and Okoth. Like the five other seniors on the roster, the two have helped rebuild the program.
In 2006, the Cobbers didn’t win a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game. With a victory at St. John’s on Oct. 30, Concordia will clinch its first-ever MIAC playoffs berth. The Cobbers are still in the running for the MIAC title, tied for first place in the standings.
“It seems unbelievable that the first year I came in we were trying to get one to two wins in the year and here we are four years later talking about trying to get the top seed,” said Riboli, who joined the team in 2007.
Okoth hasn’t returned home since he joined the program in August 2008 due to the high cost of travel. An engineering major, Okoth said having Simai there in his first couple seasons on the team helped.
“At first it was challenging, but as you go along you feel like you’re part of the team and you learn everything else,” said Okoth, who said he hopes to return home for a visit soon.
Riboli makes it home more often, having gone back for Christmas and during the summer.
“These guys they go home sometimes once a year,” Weiler said. “So it takes a unique kind of person to want that as their experience.”
Concordia had two other key international players on last year’s team – keeper Mads Schmidt of Denmark and Simai, a midfielder.
“The school itself is a strong promoter of that type of population,” Weiler said. “If have someone looking for the international programs that we have and that wants to be in the Midwest, we are a pretty good fit.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.
Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com