ADELEYE FOCUSED AMID ROCKET ATTACKS
After a breakthrough season last year, Hapoel Be'er Sheba defender/midfielder Ryan Adeleye hopes to take the next step forward when the Israeli league begins anew.
The second-year player, who signed in Israel after completing his NCAA career at the University of North Carolina, broke into Be'er Sheba's starting lineup at the end of the previous season and aims to build upon his progress.
"My personal goals for this season are to further establish myself as a prominent force in the Israeli league," Adeleye told YA. "It being my third season here, the time has come to solidify my name. After my performances in the latter half of last season the expectations I have for myself are high. But if you have high expectations it only helps to fuel your ambition and your drive, which I can assure is the case with me."
Adeleye and his Israel Premier League club find themselves in an unusual situation at the outset of the season. In addition to the rigors of a league season, Adeleye also has to contend with the stress of living in a city that has experienced a barrage of rocket attacks from nearby Gaza.
"What is going on in the south is a little bit scary," admitted Adeleye. "However I must state that the team has not allowed any of its players to be in any real danger. I have been asked if I am scared and while the answer remains no, I have taken the necessary precautions. For example when things began to escalate last week, I went to stay with a friend of my from the team who lives near Haifa, [in the north]."
With such concerns, few could blame the team for any on-the-field distractions, but Adeleye feels that the squad can cope.
"The situation on a professional level makes things a little difficult, only because the schedule is subject to change on a daily basis," said Adeleye. "This type of situation is a good opportunity to observe flexibility especially in a time of adversity."
Hapoel Be'er Sheba has also been aided by its fellow league clubs during the early stages of the season, enabling the team to train despite the closure of their own facilities.
"The team is not and has not played under duress of any kind," Adeleye stated. "Instead we have been accommodated by other soccer organizations in Israel that are located further north, and we've held practice there."
Fortunately for all involved, the situation in Be'er Sheva has improved over the last week. After a series of delays, Hapoel Be'er Sheva was able to host Beitar Jerusalem on Tuesday, suffering a 1-0 defeat.
With such troubles hopefully behind him, Adeleye now hopes to focus his attention entirely on the season that lies before him and his development as a player.
"I would say I am developing nicely," opined Adeleye. "Entering my third year in Israel I'm considerably more adjusted to the Israeli game and environment than I was in my first season."
Despite his progress over the past few seasons, Adeleye is not content with his current level. The native of Elizabeth, New Jersey envisions a move away from Israel to bigger challenges in his future.
"I do not want to stay in Israel for my entire career," noted Adeleye bluntly. "I have learned many lessons here that are sure to help me in my career as a professional soccer player, and I hope one day - perhaps even soon - to pursue teams in other leagues where I can continue my soccer education. The goal I set for myself when I first decided I wanted to be a professional soccer player, some 11 years ago, was to play at the highest level I can. I have not reached that level yet."
Adeleye's ascent in Israel has been aided by his flexibility and willingness to move around the field. He has played multiple positions and this season expects to see time at center back and defensive midfield.
While it would appear that Adeleye's next stop could be somewhere in Europe, he hasn't ruled out an eventual return to the United States later in his career.
"One day I would like to return and play in the U.S," acknowledged Adeleye. "I'm sure anyone who works abroad and doesn't live with their family will tell you that it is difficult to pay away from them for long periods of time. This game is always changing and you never know when opportunities will be available, the best thing I can do is be prepared for when those opportunities come."