Aug. 5, 2013
By Jeff Piascik, Athletic Communications
STORRS, Conn. – With more than half of the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team hailing from out-of-state, the 2013 roster undoubtedly features a unique collection of individuals who have come together from different backgrounds to achieve a common goal. Midfielder George Fochive is one of 18 players who grew up away from Connecticut, playing his high school ball in Clermont-Ferrand, France, but has quickly become a fan favorite in the Nutmeg State.
Fochive’s path into NCAA Division I Athletics was far from the usual, as he was born in Washington, D.C,. where he lived for eight years before moving to France with his mother. Fochive initially played youth basketball as a youngster but quickly discovered that his undersized body type was better suited for soccer. He joined a small club team as a teenager where he played primarily as a center back, learning the nuances of the defensive position.
“I was a small guy but I knew I was athletic so soccer seemed like a good match for me,” Fochive said. “I thought I’d be good at it because I really like the fast-paced style of the game. Defense came naturally to me and I think I really made that one of my strengths.”
Fochive went on to play high school soccer at Lycée Godefroy-de-Bouillon in France under esteemed coach Olivier Moreira. He was named team captain in his final season and was offered numerous two-year temporary contracts with professional teams in France after graduating in 2009 but wanted to pursue his goal of playing back in the United States.
“To me, playing soccer for an NCAA team was the much better option,” he said. “I wanted to get a good education. If I signed a contract with a professional team I would have had to forego my schooling for a few years. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I just thought it was too risky.”
Unfortunately for Fochive, he was unable to get major offers from Division I programs for the 2010 season after having trouble with the challenge of transitioning from the French to American styles of education.
“The two systems were very different. I wasn’t prepared for such a drastic change. I had learned the same material as the kids in America but the exams, specifically the SATs, were structured differently and I hadn’t been exposed to that before. It just threw me off.”
With many of his top choices no longer in the cards for the 2010 season, Fochive began looking into Division II schools and was quickly recruited by Hawaii Pacific University. The Sea Warriors, who compete in the Pacific West Conference, jumped immediately at the prospect of landing Fochive and brought him in for the 2010 season where he earned Second Team All-PacWest Honors after netting four goals and tallying two assists in his freshman campaign. In 2011, Fochive scored a goal and earned three assists after starting in all 16 games.
Fochive’s collegiate accomplishments were brought to light in 2012 where he played for Real Madrid F.C. in the USL Premier Developmental League, logging 590 minutes and earning two assists. Head coach Silvino Gonzalo was perplexed about why he was not playing for a DI program and helped the midfielder gain notoriety on the east coast. Fochive was informed that Connecticut was looking for a defensive-minded midfielder and jumped at the chance to speak with the staff in Storrs.
“I kept up good grades during my time in Hawaii so I was able to do all the paperwork and speak to the administration,” he said. “I was really lucky that Coach Reid needed a guy like me to fit in and I was so excited to be part of this team.”
Fochive’s transfer went smoothly and he had an immediate impact for the Huskies, starting in all 22 games in 2012 and earning an assist. While Fochive tied for fifth on the team with 20 shots, he embraced the fierce Connecticut style of defense, defining success in terms of shutouts instead of personal statistics.
“I think I learned the game in the right country. In France, stats are not usually what are considered important. It’s all about the workload that you put in. My mentality as a defensive midfield is to try and win every ball from minute one to minute 90. We play for our team, not for ourselves. That’s what this staff is looking for; they want guys to come in here and give everything for the entire game. If you’re not going to work hard, you won’t make it on this team.”
“George battles hard out there on every play for us,” said Reid. “He came in here and started every game for us in his first season. I think that speaks for itself. The guy works his tail off. He is one of the best holding midfielders we have had during my time here.”
He got a taste of NCAA glory when Connecticut took home its 12th BIG EAST regular season championship last season, and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the 15th consecutive season. The Huskies reached the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament before dropping a 1-0 contest to Creighton. For Fochive, the painful memory of the loss drives him to improve every day.
“Our game can be cruel sometimes because one goal can make or break a whole year of work,” he said. “We showed multiple times throughout the season that we could come back from deficits but we allowed that goal so late that there wasn’t any time to recover. That was something I’ll always keep in the back of my mind for motivation.”
As a senior on the squad, he has forged a bond with his fellow upperclassmen, embracing the pressure that comes with playing in his final season of collegiate athletics. The Huskies again figure to be ranked in the top-10 of the polls for most of the season and should compete for an American Athletic Conference championship.
“It’s almost a mission for us now. It’s do-or-die for us,” he expressed. “We know we have the talent to get to the next level, we just need to play to our strengths. In college soccer you have four years to play and this is my fourth year. There’s definitely something different about the way this season feels. I think it’s brought a lot of us older guys closer together because we all know this is make-or-break time. There are no other options other than to win.”
While Fochive’s journey has been far from average, the Huskies are happy that such a great talent ended up in Storrs in the end. The 2013 season should prove to be the culmination of Fochive’s unrelenting drive for success and by the time Fochive plays his final minute of NCAA action we may see that sometimes the road less traveled truly does make all the difference.