On a beautiful Memorial Day out in West Los Angeles, my wife and I decided to go to a barbecue that was being held by one of my coworkers as part of their church congregation. There was nothing out of the ordinary at this barbecue: great grilled food, wonderful side dishes, good conversation, pickup games of football and basketball going on. Then another family arrives and they introduce themselves. The father of the family (with infant in a sling strapped to his chest) smiles at me, shakes my hand and says, "Hi, I’m Nelson."
In previous discussions with my coworker who hosted the barbecue, I had mentioned prior Real Salt Lake games that I had gone to here in LA. She had told me that there was a former RSL player that went to her church and that she should introduce us sometime. At the time, I thought that would be nice if it could happen but then forgot about it until Nelson Akwari introduced himself.
After the jump: What Nelson is up to.
During our conversation, he brought me up to speed on his life after his time at RSL. Akwari bounced around the lower divisions of US Soccer teams until the Vancouver Whitecaps cut him in 2010 in preparation for their entry into MLS. He then joined the Los Angeles Blues (in the USL Pro league) for their 2011 season. This allowed him to both continue his soccer playing and to return to UCLA to pursue his bachelor’s degree in materials engineering (before turning to professional soccer, he attended UCLA for 2 years) so that after he hangs up his cleats for the last time, he’ll have his education to fall back on.
Nelson is not playing for the Blues this season. Between his schoolwork and a new child (his 2nd) in his life he simply does not have the time necessary to play for the Blues, given their travel schedule. However, he hasn’t retired yet. Once his schooling is done he wants to return to playing professional soccer, family life permitting.
I had a very enjoyable conversation with Nelson. He came across as a very nice guy, asking me what I do and how an RSL fan ended up in Los Angeles. He is very happy with how his life is turning out and is very supportive of his family. It’s also good to know that a former player is doing well in his personal pursuits.