Former Poppies and Steelmen striker says decision to play in America ‘changed his life’

Nduka in action for Dayton.
Nduka in action for Dayton.

By his own admission, Nduka Kemjika’s football career had gone a bit stale.

After moving to Corby at the age of 15 he signed for the Steelmen and then the Poppies, beforing joining nearby Stamford.

Fed up of failing to hold down a career in the English pyramid, he decided to try his hand across the pond – and he hasn’t looked back since.

Nduka, 24, said: “When I left for Stamford I felt I was kind of bouncing round from local club to local club and wasn’t fulfilling my potential.

“I felt like I was going stale, not just in football but in terms of my life.

“I stopped playing and lost my love of the game.

Nduka now coaches four youth teams.

Nduka now coaches four youth teams.

“Moving to America has changed my life and it’s been a massive learning experience for me.

“I’ve matured and I have grown in my life.”

Nduka moved to Corby from Liverpool and signed for the Steelmen on a non-contract basis at the age of 17.

He made his first-team debut for the Poppies in an FA Trophy defeat at Gateshead in 2011, when the club was in a period of turbulence.

His leap of faith saw him achieve a scholarship in Tennessee at Tusculum College before moving to Tennessee Wesleyan University, where he excelled.

Now he is urging other youngsters who don’t make it in the game in the UK to consider taking the same route as him.

He said: “I see a lot of youngsters in the UK and they don’t know what to do.

“When football does not go their way they do things that they probably shouldn’t be involved in.

“There are opportunities outside the UK and experiences for people who haven’t even considered it.

“People don’t think the standard here is any good but it’s just as good, if not better.

“When I played for Tresham College you’d be lucky to get one man and his dog watching but here thousands watch college games and they chant your name.”

Last season Nduka played for Dayton in Ohio in the USL Premier Development League, the highest division of semi-professional football in the USA.

It’s a league where many MLS teams pick college players to sign, giving footballers a pathway to playing alongside stars such as Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard in recent years.

Nduka finished as Dayton’s second highest goalscorer, but coaching has become part of his life too after taking a job in South Carolina as the coach of four youth teams.

He added: “I have still got opportunities to play but now I’m mainly focused on coaching.

“There are companies that recruit people that want to go to the USA and they offer trials to those interested.

“It’s all about taking that leap of faith.

“If you put yourself out there there will be someone interested in you.”