When junior midfielder Eric Frimpong was nine years old, the hardest thing to find in his native country of Ghana was a soccer ball. So Frimpong and his friends wrapped together all their socks and played “football” in the narrow area between their beds in their dormitory. Now, UCSB’s newest midfielder plays soccer on a much wider turf.

Welcome, Eric Frimpong, to UCSB.

A 19-year-old transfer student from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, Africa, Frimpong makes his American debut on the nationally ranked UCSB men’s soccer team.

“It is my first time to America, to anywhere outside Africa. I spent all my life in Ghana,” Frimpong said. “I wasn’t scared, but excited. I know UCSB has a lot to offer me. If I give, whole-heartedly, myself to UCSB, I will go places.”

Looking for a new defender, Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg and Assistant Coach Leo Chappel traveled to Ghana to watch some of the universities play. It was then that they noticed Frimpong’s athletic abilities and maturity. Unaware of the scouting, Frimpong received a phone call and offer to come to UCSB. After researching Santa Barbara online, Frimpong made his decision.

Six weeks ago, he arrived in America to join the preseason training. The team and the coaches have helped Frimpong immensely with everything from his accommodations,\ to food to bouts of homesickness. He describes the other members of his team as big brothers and is very grateful for everything they have done for him. Soccer in America is much different than his experience in Ghana. The level of discipline and physical ability far exceeds what he imagined.

“I like how the team has a particular practice schedule, but then gets together and watches previous matches to see your mistakes. We didn’t do that in Ghana. Here, you can correct mistakes and I like that very much,” Frimpong said.

Expectations have surrounded Frimpong since he came to Santa Barbara. Originally he had the impression that his school in Ghana was at a higher level in terms of sports. He admits he was greatly mistaken, claiming that UCSB is 10 times better. He also thought he would freeze in Santa Barbara, since Ghanaian temperatures are much warmer, but the recent heat waves have made the transition smoother. He does, however, complain about the food.

“One thing I really dislike about America is the processed food. I’m used to natural foods, but I’m beginning to understand,” Frimpong said. “Time is very important here. In Ghana, we take an hour to make dinner, but in America, about a minute and a half. I’m getting used to it.”

Having studied mathematics and engineering in Ghana, Frimpong declared mathematics as his major at Santa Barbara. Math comes easy for Frimpong, but he says that the hardest part of lecture is the English. While he understands English, he finds it difficult to follow the fast rate at which the professors speak.

Currently, Frimpong sees his athletic adjustment at about 60 percent. After visa problems, Frimpong arrived midway through preseason conditioning so has spent much of his time catching up to the rest of the team. While it proves challenging, Frimpong tracks his improvement each practice.

His coaches and teammates all agree that Frimpong is a great presence on the field and off. Senior midfielder and team co-captain Nate Boyden describes him as a player who brightens the day with his smile. Vom Steeg is confident in his abilities as a player and student, hailing him as a great acquisition to the athletic program and the academics of UCSB.

“We’re still trying to decide how best to use him,” Vom Steeg said. “He’s good on the ball, has great vision, and makes the other players better when he’s around them. He’s talented and gets along well with everyone. He will be a strong player and a strong academic student for UCSB.”

Frimpong’s main goal for himself is to adjust to America. He not only spends time with his team, but also his five American roommates in Tropicana Gardens and the other people he meets around campus. Fromping especially likes the way that the “ladies” approach him and their interest in Ghana.

“America is a developed country, moving at a faster rate than Ghana, a developing country. I must get used to the whole environment, how all transposes in America,” Frimpong said. “In the first two months, I want to get used to the atmosphere and then move on.”