Fully Committed

The ref blows the whistle and eight-year-old Wisdom Onuoma jogs off the field, tears welling in his eyes. As he watches from the bench, the opposing team scores a goal in the final seconds; he lost the game. Defeated, he sits in the passenger seat of his mom’s car. Every lost game and substitution since the beginning of young Onuoma’s decorated career led to tears and intense emotions. From the second he started playing, soccer hasn’t left Onuoma’s mind. 

Throughout his life, Onuoma has been working towards his goal of becoming a professional soccer player. He’s already committed to UC Berkeley for men’s soccer, a Division 1 school for the sport. However, Onuoma decided that he will not be playing for the Cardinals this year in order to focus on club athletics and to academically prepare for college. His love for the sport has turned him into the player he is today, and he hopes to continue this at Cal, and for the rest of his soccer career. 

Onuoma was born in Nigeria, where soccer is life. In Nigeria, soccer is a center of pride, spirit, and community; these values were instilled in him by the sport and family. Onuoma says that he is reminded of where he comes from whenever he plays; Nigeria helped spark his passion for soccer and keeps it alive today. 

Onuoma migrated from Nigeria to the United States when he was two years old. At the age of four, his older brother introduced him to the world of soccer. He and his brother would go to the park and kick the soccer ball around for hours. They did this as often as they could, and every week for the first few years in San Francisco, playing soccer with his brother drew him closer to his brother, and the sport. Aside from introducing young Onouma to soccer, his brother taught him to take advantage of the resources available to him. Since his brother wasn’t financially able to pursue soccer to the degree he wanted, Onuoma was determined to pursue his dream and make his brother proud. He played for school teams throughout elementary school, and joined the San Francisco Seals soccer club at age eight. 

After joining the Seals, Onuoma said club soccer began to feel like a home. He spent years traveling to tournaments all around the world, in places like Sweden and Denmark. Traveling with his team and improving his skills within a tight community further ignited his goals of making soccer his future. “Club soccer is everything,” Onouma said, “ it opened so many doors for me that I never could have imagined.”

I’m at a point that if I’m confident, if I keep going, I’ll become a professional soccer player.

— Wisdom

Club soccer honed Onuoma’s skills, and people started to notice. Onuoma’s club coach noticed his agility and quick thinking, which is essential to being a good soccer player. At age 12, his coach introduced him to the coach of the University of San Francisco (USF) men’s soccer team. He liked what he saw within Onouma, and kept an eye on him as he grew. The attention from colleges throughout his teenage years led to a life-changing opportunity. In June 2022, when Onuoma was 17, his club coach set up a scrimmage and invited the former USF coach — the now head coach of the Cal men’s team. Although other D1 schools like USF and Saint Mary’s had expressed interest in him already, it was still too early in the recruiting process to be getting real offers. Just days after the game, however, the UC Berkeley coach contacted Onouma and gave him just that. 

Committing to Cal was a big decision, but Onuoma was confident in doing so. Because of potential other offers, playing D1 soccer wasn’t necessarily exclusive to Cal. However, he was offered a scholarship and essentially automatic admission to play his sport at the highest collegiate level. Cal stood out from his other options because it’s just across the bridge and he wants to stay close to his home and family. On every level, Cal was the school for Onuoma, making his decision seamless. “It was a no brainer,” he said. 

In preparation for college, Onuoma will not be playing on the Lowell soccer team this year. He says that he wants to focus on his grades and his club team so he’s academically and athletically ready to go to Cal next year. With Onuoma’s absence, as well as other former Lowell players in MLS NEXT  — a highly competitive youth league sanctioned by Major League Soccer — the Lowell team will be without most of its big names. Although the team might be losing some of its star players, like Onouma, he feels as though it will be an opportunity for other people to step into the spotlight.

Even though playing soccer at the collegiate level was a major goal for Onouma, he only sees this as a stepping stone to his hopeful recruitment to play for one of the best leagues in Europe, hopefully in France, or in England. Audrey Duane, captain of the Lowell girls soccer team, described him as fully committed to this goal. “I’m at a point that if I’m confident, if I keep going, I’ll become a professional soccer player,” Onuoma said.