SCOTT PETERSON - Thursday, September 1, 2011
After leaving the New England Revolution in 2010 to sign with 2. Bundesliga outfit FC Igolstadt, Amaechi Igwe's start in European soccer has been hampered by both injury and a head coaching switch.
Now playing a league down for Babelsberg in the 3. Bundesliga, Igwe is finally getting a chance to show off his soccer skills and be a regular, and significant, contributor, with aspirations of playing in a higher division.
After a brief trial with Aalborg in Denmark, Igwe landed at FC Igolstadt, home of Audi, with hopes of breaking into the 2nd division team and further develop as a player. But due to a serious knee injury picked up in preseason, he never got that chance, and was released before his career there ever got off the ground.
"Ingolstadt is a very professional, competitive club with a new stadium, big sponsor, willing to invest in the clubs future. It's a tough environment for a player attempting to come back off of such a long injury. I signed with one coach and he was fired in the Winter. So a new coach came who hadn't seen me play and had to make some quick decisions."
This past offseason Igwe signed with German club Babelsberg in the eastern part of the country and he is thrilled at the opportunity to finally get back onto the field and showcase what he can do.
"I needed a place to go where I could play and get fit again, without pressure, and surpass where I was. In soccer people are always talking about a springboard. I hope this can be mine."
Igwe has fully recovered from a knee injury that left him with doubts whether he would ever be able to play again. But if there is a silver lining from such a lengthy and trying layoff, it is that Igwe now has a mental toughness that can only gained after enduring and overcoming such unforeseen hardships.
"At this point I'm just happy to be back on the field and healthy because last year, I won't lie, I had my doubts about playing again. My knee feels good. [I have had] no problems in games and every week I feel stronger. Obviously, being out for such a long time for any athlete is depressing but mentally it made me stronger and physically I'm taking better care of myself."
The merits of such mental and physical toughness are evinced by the fact that he has become a key cog in head coach Benno Mohlmann's plans; the Californian has seen action in every match save the season opener due to work permit issues.
His physicality has also been felt by his opponents, as he is not one for half challenges picking up four yellow cards in his six league games. A defender by trade, but an attacker at heart, there is some uncertainty as to where Igwe's talents are best placed on the field.
"Some coaches look at me as strictly a left defender and others as an outside midfielder. I think on a higher level I have more experience at left defender but I love to attack. Defending to me is the work and attacking is the fun."
Igwe and Babelsberg are sitting in the middle of the pack with eight points from seven matches, a line that coincides with realistic expectations for the team.
"We would love to make a run for promotion but realistically our team goal is to stay middle of the table. But in this league anybody can beat anybody so you never know."
When asked about his future, Igwe is ruling nothing out, but, grateful for the chance in Babelsberg, is clearly focused on his current club.
"I just want to play as many games as possible and then see what my options are at the end of this year. MLS is always in the back of my mind but my dream is to play on a high level in Europe."