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There have only been two Tanzanian players ever to grace the fields in Major League Soccer during the league’s 29-year history, and Abokye Bikyeombe is pushing to become the third as he continues his MLS NEXT Pro development.

Bikyeombe, a 15-year-old midfielder, is currently fighting for minutes with Real Monarchs as he works through the stages of a new league and club. Six years after moving to the United States from Tanzania, Bikyeombe is one of the youngest players within the new league, making the most of his biggest opportunity in the country.

Close to two years after joining the Real Salt Lake Academy from La Roca Futbol Club in Weber, Utah, Bikyeombe reflected on his past of growing up in Tanzania and getting the opportunity to the United States.

“It was kinda rough, you know, just the lifestyle and having a big family,” Bikyeombe told MLS NEXT Pro. “It was good though, we had a lot of friends, we played a lot of soccer all day everyday.”

“We were immigrants and we were selected to come to the United States,” he added. “It was a long flight, I had never been on a plane before so that was my first time. My dad had died before we came to the United States, so he stayed back in Tanzania and we came here.”

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Photo Credit: Real Monarchs

Taking advantage of the opportunity

While many other 15-year-olds are still finding their way through local academies, Bikyeombe is enjoying every moment of his new surroundings with Real Monarchs. 

“My coach [at La Roca] picked two players to come and trial here with the academy,” Bikyeombe said. “I came and made the team and then started playing with the academy. Then I started training with the Monarchs and got into a couple of games.

“It was a different environment with new people and new coaches, everything was just overwhelming. It’s been great with the Monarchs though, it’s been a great spring with good players and good experiences for me. Great fields, great coaches and all of that. I think this is good for my soccer career.”

“After Monarchs, my goal is playing with the first team,” he added. “Maybe someday with Manchester City because that is my team. I would love to play with the Tanzania National Team someday.”

Bikyeombe comes into Week 8 off the back-to-back MLS NEXT Pro starts, including an 89-minute performance in a 2-0 defeat to St Louis CITY2, his first-ever. Monarchs are still fighting to claim their first regulation victory of the inaugural season and travel to Tacoma on Sunday, aiming to do so on the road.

Bikyeombe is still reasonably young in his time with Real Monarchs but is grateful for his opportunity in MLS NEXT Pro and aims high for the later stages of his professional career.

“It’s a very good feeling; it was a very good opportunity for me to go and represent myself at the highest level,” Bikeyombe said about his early appearances this season. “I’ve just tried to do my best there and just go even higher after that. It is helping me become a better player and a better person on and off the field. Playing with other teams in the league has improved my skills and all.

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“After Monarchs, my goal is playing with the first team,” he added. “Maybe someday with Manchester City because that is my team. I would love to play with the Tanzania National Team someday.”