Player To Watch: Twenty Year Old American Soccer Player Signs To Play Second Season For Germany’s Greifswalder FC
Joe Joe Richardson was a youth soccer player from Washington state with big dreams of playing soccer in Europe and now has just signed his second contract to play soccer for the recently promoted club Greifswalder FC in Germany.
Twenty-year-old attacking midfield Joe Joe Richardson is a student at New York University, or perhaps more accurately is a college student on leave from NYU’s Stern School of Business. One of U.S. News & World Report’s “10 Best Business Schools for Finance,” graduates of NYU’s Stern usually earn $225,000 plus after graduation … but what is more important than a lucrative career in finance? Being a footballer. Richardson has put his career path in investment banking on hold to follow his soccer dreams.
During the early days of the pandemic when classes went virtual, Richardson joined the prestigious International Soccer Academy gap year program in Mallorca, Spain to take his game to the next level. After several months of impressing International Soccer Academy co-founder Eddie Loewen and Associate coach Holger Gehrke, a former Bundesliga goalkeeper at FC Schalke 04 who became a national team coach, Richardson was approved for going on trials with LA Liga, Bundesliga and other European soccer clubs.
Recommended by Gehrke, who was also a former head coach of FC Köln, Richardson accepted a roster spot in Germany at Greifswalder FC.
International Soccer Academy teammates Michael Scavuzzo and Bleon Salihu also were offered roster spots and joined Richardson at Greifswalder FC. All three American youth soccer players were proud to sign their first contracts to be paid to play the game they loved, and at 19 years of age, moved from the USA to Germany. International Soccer Academy has arranged over 65 trials for their talented soccer players and a total of 15 soccer contracts.
Although the average age of the 25-member squad at Greifswalder FC was 25 years old and approximately 80% of the players were European with the majority being German, the three American players performed well.
Among the youngest players on the team, Richardson was one of the highest goal scorers and clearly made an impact on the field, helping his team become promoted to the next league.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you describe your first year?
JoeJoe Richardson: My First year in Greifswald will be one that I always remember. I came into a team, Greifswalder FC, that allowed me to grow in my first year of mens football and get better everyday.
Diane Scavuzzo: Scoring 12 goals for your team, you were the lead goal scorer … As an American soccer player on a German team, how did this make you feel?
JoeJoe Richardson: I did score twelve goals and was the leading scorer all the way up until the last week when my teammate from Ghana, Peterson Appiah, passed me by one.
Obviously I enjoy scoring goals — and, helping the team it is one of the most exhilarating aspects of football but being the top scorer is never too important.
In the last game I had an opportunity to score a goal but decided instead to pass to Appiah because I thought he had a better opportunity.
For me, it is not so important where the goals are coming from.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was it like playing in Volksstadion, Greifswald’s stadium that seats just under 5,000 fans?
JoeJoe Richardson: Just great. I am very happy to have had a successful season. I am proud to have helped my team win the league.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals for the future? Right now you are focusing on your career as a professional footballer?
JoeJoe Richardson: Yes. My goals for the future are currently to help Greifswald promote again within the next two years. I know this is a difficult challenge and people may laugh, but I go into every match believing I can win.
And, for a more personal goal, I hope to continue moving up divisions and playing at the highest level possible.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was the hardest part of the past year? Be away from home?
JoeJoe Richardson: The hardest part of the year were the three weeks after the Winter break — I had returned from being back in America for the holidays and the German winters can be dark and difficult, especially after leaving all my family.
This was the first time in my life I felt truly homesick. It was very tough. I have traveled extensively, and I never thought I would be homesick.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
JoeJoe Richardson: Working in staying positive and getting through feeling homesick last January … that was probably my biggest challenge.
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Diane Scavuzzo: As an American footballer, what do you miss most from the states? Any special foods?
JoeJoe Richardson: Mexican cuisine is definitely the food I miss the most.
Diane Scavuzzo: And finally, when your team won the last match and finally knew it was going to be promoted, how did you feel? It was a tough road, with the tight promotion race in the northern Oberliga Nordost continuing until the very end of the season. What was it like?
JoeJoe Richardson: Winning that final game was a very special moment. Promotion is something that we don’t fully understand in America I think.
Then when you are here and see the emotions of the people from the city, you start to understand. There were so many people crying of joy and saying they never thought they would see Greifswald in the Regionalliga … for them, it was like a dream.
To be a part of this achievement will always be special.Joe Joe Richardson
According to Gehrke, “Joe Joe played a great season last year. With the promotion of his team, he can make now the next step.” Chris Ketels, International Soccer Academy program director in Mallorca, said, “JoeJoe was always highly focused, dedicated and highly talented. We all wish him continued success and the very best.”
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