Aigbogun dedicated to soccer

Don't be misled by his soft voice and easy-going demeanor because on any soccer field, Paul Aigbogun is a dedicated man who has a passion he wants to pass on to others. And while the 37-year-old splits time between his home in England and Carson City, the Northern Nevada soccer community has only benefited from his work as a coach over the last three years with the Nevada Wonders Academy youth program as well as the Wonders United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League franchise.

Since Aigbogun has played professionally and possesses a UEFA "A" coaching license, there aren't any better sources around. So yes, he has had an impact during his three years in Carson City.

"Oh, yeah, a huge impact," said Nevada Wonders General Manager Randy Roser. "The kids love him. He has that soft voice, but when he gets out on the field, you hear his coach talk. But he has a big heart. That's what he loves to do. He lives and dies soccer."

Aigbogun (pronounced Aig-bo-gun) will be sharing his time between the Wonders Academy youth program and the PDL team, which is relocating to San Francisco. The team name is being changed to the Seals, but Aigbogun will continue to be part of the coaching staff.

"I'm going to be working more with the kids here, but I'll be spending some time in the Bay Area as well," Aigbogun said. "I'll still be on the coaching staff and go down there a couple of days to work with the team.

"The good thing about being down there, with the larger player pool, we should be looking to do a lot better. In other years, we've been looking to make the playoffs, but we've been a lot more developmental. Now, with the amount of talent down there, it's going to be a lot easier because we won't have to bring a lot of talent from out of town."

While the Wonders never got to the playoffs, they improved in each of the three seasons they played in Carson City. They were respectable and they brought some quality talent to town.

"I thought we did very well when you consider some of the players we've had," Aigbogun said. "Four of those players actually went on to play at a national level - Chris Blackburn, he's playing for the England (second) national team now and playing very well; Chris Schwarze was drafted in the MLS; the Brazilian kid, Renato, went to Sweden; and Audren Cashman went over and played in Sweden as well. That's a pretty good achievement, if you think about it."

Other talented players have appeared on the Carson High field as well.

"Look at the kid who played in the MLS Cup the other day, Hercules Gomez, who plays for the L.A. Galaxy," Aigbogun said. "He was one of the leading scorers in the league, and he was the one who scored the winning goal against us when we played San Diego. In that way, I think the PDL team was very successful because talent like that would have never played here otherwise."

The only disappointment is that more fans didn't come out to watch the summer games.

"It was maybe a little disappointing the public didn't support it a little more," he said. "It's just unfortunate, but when you look at the financial side, you need to get a few more people to come through the gate."

However, Aigbogun is optimistic about the future. He believes the level of soccer in Northern Nevada is only getting better, and along with it, the possibilities of local youngsters moving on to play collegiately and even at the professional level. He even sees the possibility of the PDL returning to this area.

"Hopefully, with the kids who are coming through now, not just the Academy, but kids coming through from the other teams in Northern Nevada, you could probably have another PDL team in two or three years because you'll probably have a good handful of local talent," he said. "Maybe at that stage, we'll have more local players and we'll be able to draw better crowds."

Aigbogun added that the door of opportunity is open for local players who are interested in playing for the San Francisco team.

"We've already got some kids who played on the U14 and U15 teams asking if, in time, they could go down to the Bay Area and try out for the (PDL) team. The good thing, with us still being major shareholders in the team, we can still get players in there, if they're good enough. So it's going to be a good partnership for the kids here as well."

That was the objective when Roser laid the groundwork for bringing a PDL franchise to Carson City in the first place.

"The reason we started the PDL team was to get players and coaches like Paul here to train our kids," Roser said. "The higher level of coaching brings a higher level of soccer all the way around. That's what we're trying to do - train them properly and develop them so they can move on to play at a higher level."

The Carson High boys and girls teams certainly played at a high level this fall. The Roser-coached girls squad won 19 straight games before finally losing to Galena in the Northern 4A Tournament finals on Saturday at Mackay Stadium. At the same time, the only two teams to defeat Carson's boys this season - South Tahoe and Elko - played against each other in the 4A state championship game (South Tahoe won, 2-0).

When the Wonders' summer season ended, he returned to his home in London for three months. Last week, he returned to his newfound home in Carson City to prepare for the Wonders Academy team tryouts.

"No, I didn't expect to stay this long," he said with a smile. "My family is still in England, so I spend a lot of time flying back and forth. That part of it is a strain. The good thing is, when I'm home, I get three months of vacation and I get to spend a lot of time with my daughter."

But he does plan to stick around for a while longer.

"I think so, for now," he said. "I think when you have a project, it's nice to see it through, you know. I started three years ago and I've seen a lot of growth here. With the PDL team, I'm hoping in two or three years time, we can bring it back here again."

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