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Out of Africa

Ghana, Kenya and now Canyon Country, Richmond Sam has had quite a journey

Posted: February 6, 2009 1:01 a.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Canyon High junior soccer player Richmond Sam's ball-handling and passing skills have led the Cowboys to a 5-1-1 Foothill League record this year.

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On a senior-laden team with several players who have played with each other since kindergarten, there’s one player who the Canyon boys soccer community hadn’t seen until the 2008-09 season began.

The reason no one in the Foothill League had ever seen Richmond Sam play was because he spent last season, his sophomore year, playing in Nairobi, Kenya. The junior striker spent his freshman campaign in his native Ghana.

“When we were having tryouts we couldn’t figure out who he was because we didn’t have a Richmond Sam listed,” said Canyon head coach Khris Savage. “It took us a while to realize someone had listed his name as Sam Richmond instead. I’m glad we figured it out.”

Teams throughout the area have been learning Sam’s name as the season has progressed.

He handed out the game-winning assist against Hart on Jan. 20, and Sam’s unique style of play is a major reason Canyon (9-7-2, 5-1-1) sits atop the Foothill League.

“It’s definitely a lot different over here than it was in Africa,” Sam said. “It’s not the same way we played the game in some ways, but I really like my teammates, and they’ve all been really nice and helped me out.”

Soccer has helped Sam, whose family moved to Newhall when his father was transferred for work, make such a big move at a young age.

“We have 12 seniors on this team so we weren’t even looking to add another player when we had tryouts,” Savage said. “We let everyone who made the varsity the previous year play on the team again so tryouts are really more to see who makes the JV. But we knew we needed to find a spot for Richmond once we watched him.”

As Sam worked his way into a comfort zone at striker, the Cowboys evolved as a team.

“He’s a great passer,” said senior captain Shaun McLaughlin. “I think Richmond has really brought a different element to our team. He doesn’t play like anyone else we have.”

Sam’s dribbling ability that he honed during years in Ghana and his keen ability to find the open man are a pair of the traits that make him so valuable and special as a striker, but he still wants to improve his goal scoring prowess.

“Every game there are a couple of shots that I want to go in,” Sam said. “I hope the goals will come, and my coach says they will so I believe they will.”

Savage has helped Sam with his transition to a new culture, imparting some knowledge from when he played in a foreign land.

“We have a lot in common because I was kind of an outsider when I played in Ireland years ago,” Savage said. “I was this long-haired surfer-looking guy who played the game differently than the guys I played with, which is a lot like how Richmond has different way of playing than our guys.”

Sam’s style of play can be attributed to his upbringing in Africa. He started playing when he was 5 years old.

“Wherever you go in the world, soccer is taught differently so he knows other elements than our guys,” Savage said. “He has some of the most beautiful touches too, and he’s really loved by his teammates.”

Even though Sam quickly gelled with his teammates, there have still been some rough parts during his transition in coming to America.

“It’s been kind of strange coming over here,” Sam said. “Some things are really nice like the field we play on. We didn’t have any fields like this in Africa, but I’ve also been very busy during the season. I wake up at six, and it’s probably 10 by the time I’m done with school and practice and chores and homework.”

Still, the lefty striker has found the drive and dedication to get his many tasks done, while evolving as a player and a student.

Sam’s crammed schedule is one thing that hasn’t changed. In Africa, his school day routinely ran 10 hours.
“We always welcome the new guy,” said senior midfielder Alex McCaslin. “He’s really improving and working hard. We’re happy to have him on the team. His passing skills have really helped us.”

With so many players graduating in 2009, Sam figures to be a critical part of Canyon’s attack next season also, assuming he actually gets to spend two years at the same high school for the first time in his life.

“I hope we can stay here,” Sam said. “There’s a lot I like about playing at Canyon and going to school here. This is a great team to play for.”

Savage also would like to see Sam spend another season with the Cowboys.

“He’s overcome any road block or bit of adversity that has come his way this season,” Savage said. “It’s been great watching him, and I can’t wait to watch him continue to grow and play again next year. He has great potential.”

kdamore@the-signal.com

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