CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The Israeli Premier League is not a common destination for many Americans looking for experience abroad, but for Ryan Adeleye the move has paid off.
"I am happy with my decision," the 23-year-old defender told YA, "because I have noticed a significant change in myself both as a player and a person."
In his first professional season with Hapoel Be'er Sheva, the former North Carolina Tar Heel has worked his way into the starting back line during the final four games of this season. On April 17th Adeleye found himself on the scorecard with a 49th minute header in a 4-0 dismantling of Maccabi Netanya.
Although born in Israel, Adeleye contends that the nation where he was raised is his first choice for national team duty, but doesn't rule out other possibilities.
"I grew up in the United States and first and foremost would like to represent the U.S. if given the opportunity. If it seems that I am nowhere on the U.S.'s radar as I continue to build my resume, I will consider my alternatives."
His path back to Israel began at the 2009 Maccabiah Games last July, representing the U.S. delegation in the Jewish Olympiad that occurs once every four years in Israel. Prior to the tournament Team USA played a friendly against Hapoel Be'er Sheva, and Adeleye caught the eye of former head coach Guy Azzuri.
"Azzuri approached me after the game, and after that we were in touch," Adeleye explains. The U.S. squad went on to win four and concede a loss for a fifth place finish.
"At the conclusion of the games, when Hapoel Be'er Sheva returned from pre-season camp in Germany, I joined them for a trial period. After a week they asked me to stay."
The dual citizen of U.S. and Israel made his debut for the club on Aug. 18 in a 1-0 loss to Hapoel Petah Tikva in the Toto Cup. His first league debut would not come until Dec. 5 against the same opponent in a 2-0 win.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva finished the 2009-10 season in ninth in the 16-team standings, securing a spot in next season's Premier League.
Things started to look up for Adeleye in the summer of 2007 after two years at Davidson College. Following a stint at the local Premier Development League club Carolina Dynamo, the youngster transferred further up the road to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he ended up participating in the 2-1 loss in the Dec. 14, 2008 final against NCAA champions Maryland.
Although being looked over in the MLS Superdraft in January 2009, the defender found playing time with the Newark Ironbound Express of the PDL, but kept his options open abroad.
"I have always wanted to play professional soccer, especially in another country."
Although Israel suits him fine, Adeleye would like to see himself in Serie A.
"One day I would like to play in Europe, preferably Italy, or one of the other top leagues. Italy for some reason has always been special to me, even though I have never been there, I just enjoy the passion people display for the beautiful game."
Dreams of Italy will have to simmer longer, as Adeleye returns to the States this summer to resume training before returning to Israel for next season's Premier League, slated to kick off in August.