Soccer, Track & Field
Favorite athlete: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
Favorite team: Real Madrid
Favorite memory competing in sports: Dribbled past almost all the defenders from the center midfield to the corner flags and shot the ball into the penalty box where my teammate was able to score a header goal.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I sent a through ball to my teammate from center midfield, and he managed to beat the defender and goalie but kicked the ball wide on an empty net in the 6-yard box. He jogged back, and I told him this isn’t football for him to try a field goal. The whole team started laughing when the incident happened.
Music on iPod: Train, Lil Wayne, Neon Trees and mostly Pop songs
Future plans: Attend a college, graduate, go to medical school and work in foreign countries helping the sick.
Words to live by: ‘Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.’ – Booker T Washington (Fab out)
One goal before turning 30: Obtain a PhD, Build my own hospital/nursing facility in a foreign country and have a family.
One thing people don’t know about me: I am a very shy and a carefree person unless I am passionate about a cause. My favorite cartoon is Phineas and Ferb, and I still follow some of my childhood cartoons and anime like Franklin and Backyardigans.
By Mary Jane Souder
Fabrice Agbadan is anything but your typical student-athlete.
For starters, the Cheltenham senior’s goals are decidedly different than those of most of his peers, but then again, his story is unique as well.
A native of Togo in West Afrida, Agbadan plans to become a medical doctor and then return to his homeland where he aspires to build his own hospital or nursing facility.
“Just coming from Africa and watching my family and friends struggle, I want to go back and give them an opportunity that they never had, give them a second chance,” Agbadan said.
It’s those aspirations that have made the Panthers’ senior captain stand out in a crowd.
“He’s what you want to see come to this country – a kid who’s focused on becoming a doctor and doing something good, but not so he could drive around in a Mercedes or for some external sense of success,” coach Chuck Gesing said. “He’s doing it because, from a young age, that’s what he thought was right and good to do.
“He loves to play soccer, and if soccer can open some doors that otherwise not be open to him, then why not.”
As a youngster growing up in a country struggling with political unrest, soccer was Agbadan’s salvation.
“It kept me away from the trouble and violence surrounding me,” he said. “When my parents got divorced, soccer kept me straight and kept me from thinking about the issue.
“We didn’t have the normal stuff that people usually take for granted - even water was really hard to find.”
“Coming to a new country was very tough,” he said. “I struggled to grasp the English language as the words were harder, and my parents struggled to find a well-paying job to support us.”
After two years in the city, his family relocated in Cheltenham. Agbadan’s world was about to change for the better.
“The people were the friendliest people I have ever met in my life,” he said. “I still have one of my best friends from middle school, and they helped me transition from Philadelphia to here.
“The beautiful scenery and parks made me feel at home again.”
Those parks became home for Agbadan and his soccer ball.
“That was the only thing that I could connect to, and it was a way for me to remember where I came from and why I began playing soccer in the first place,” he said. “I was determined to be a better soccer player because, if anything, this was the country with the opportunity to become something.”
When Agbadan entered high school, he opted to not play soccer his freshman year, focusing instead on academics. As a sophomore, he was back on the soccer field.
“It’s been great, especially the team,” he said. “They really make you feel at home and push you to compete and give your best performance out there.”
As a newcomer to the squad, Agbadan was influenced by team captains BJ Stuetz and Martin Freedman, and Stuetz, now a sophomore at Penn State, remembers the then sophomore defender well.
“The biggest thing with Fabrice was he was dedicated,” said Stuetz, “His parents didn’t really want him playing at first because they wanted him to focus on his grades. He did everything he could to make sure he would be able to play. He was one of the kids who was always trying to get better in the offseason, always trying to get everyone together.
“In regards to his attitude, he’s probably one of the most positive kids I have played with. He stepped right into a defender’s role and was just a pleasure to play with. He was very committed and dedicated and always gave it his all.”
That commitment has paid dividends for Agbadan.
“Basically, when he steps on the pitch, he’s usually the best player on the field skill-wise,” Gesing said. “Other teams might have players that are comparable, but he’s usually got the best skill set on the field.
“He knows how to lead, he knows the guys will listen to him, and he knows his strengths and weaknesses.”
Ask Agbadan what he enjoys most about soccer, and he has an immediate response.
“Passing to my teammates and giving them an opportunity to succeed,” he said.
According to Gesing, that is what makes Agbadan special.
“He sets everybody else, and our team usually runs through him,” the Panthers’ coach said. “He’s the guy that delivers the killer pass that is going to set our forwards free, he’s the guy that’s going to win 50-50 balls even though he’s only 5-8.”
Agbadan also has competed in track since he was a sophomore and was part of Cheltenham’s 4x800 relay that advanced to districts his first year on the squad. He also competes in the 4x400 relay as well as the 400 and 800. He is also captain of his track team, a responsibility he does not take lightly.
“It’s a privilege,” he said of being captain of two squads. “It’s not something that comes to every guy on the team. Coming from a different world, I’m really glad, and I know my goals are here for me to reach.
“I work hard to cheer my team even after a loss and try to find a way to make sure our goals are met collectively.”
Agbadan aspires to play soccer at the collegiate level where he will major in pre-med. He came by his interest in medicine honestly – his father was a doctor and is now working as an R.N. in a nursing home.
“It runs in the family, so it’s pretty much expected,” he said. “I love being out there and helping people.”
In the classroom, Agbadan boasts a 3.32 GPA but hopes to up that to 3.5 by the time he graduates.
“As coach Gesing sometimes tells us, ‘We are student-athletes,’ meaning our academic excellence comes before our skills in being able to play sports,” he said. “Success starts in the classroom, and our team is always working hard in school as well as on the (field).”
Temple and Penn State are his top college choices, and wherever he goes, Agbadan aspires to help others.
“He’s not just going for your average goals,” Stuetz said. “He’s trying to make a difference in his own country. That’s always awesome to see.”
Inspired by soccer stars like Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, Agbadan hopes to use his soccer talents to influence others. He considers himself blessed in every way.
“I am lucky to attain such a life after my struggles,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for better teachers, friends, coaches and school district.
“Successes start with struggles and hard work as I’ve learned earlier in my life, and that is a lesson to be taught to people who take shortcuts to success. I am now looking forward to the opportunities of college and can’t wait.”