When Valour FC signed midfielder Raphael Ohin last January, the move didn’t create a lot of buzz.
Ohin, a Ghana native who put down roots in the city five years ago, was coming off of three impressive seasons in USL League Two for WSA Winnipeg, but he had never played at the professional level.
. “I remember sometimes I’d come home so exhausted, so frustrated and was just never happy. I’d come home go straight to my room right away and start crying. “I’m like ‘What am I gonna do?’ I never knew this is how professional (soccer) is and I never knew it was that hard.” — Raphael Ohin
At the beginning of the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, Ohin showed some growing pains and it took him a while to earn the Valour coaching staff’s trust. He was one of the last players on Valour’s roster to check into a match.
"I remember sometimes I’d come home so exhausted, so frustrated and was just never happy. I’d come home go straight to my room right away and start crying," Ohin, 24, said in an interview at his Winnipeg home. "I’m like ‘What am I gonna do?’ I never knew this is how professional (soccer) is and I never knew it was that hard."
Ohin was glued to the bench for the first six games of the season. But due to some injuries and the team’s lacklustre play, he was finally given a chance on June 5 when he was substituted into a road match against HFX Wanders FC. From there, Valour had a tough time keeping Ohin out of the lineup as quickly became one of their hardest-working players. He brought an energy to the pitch that the team severely lacked.
“Eventually, I know it’s going to come. I don’t really force goals. I want to be a team player. I’m happy when the team is winning. I’m happy when someone scores. If I don’t score and I can help the team out, at the end of the day, we’re one family and the team wins. It’s not Raphael that won.” — Raphael Ohin
Between the spring and fall seasons, Ohin ended up making 20 appearances. Ohin went from an afterthought to a player that was impossible not to notice.
"I learned a lot when I was at the bottom. Sometimes you have to go all the way down and then come up again," Ohin said. "Moving from a semi-pro level, which was WSA Winnipeg, I was doing some crazy things at that level. And I thought ‘OK Raph, I can do the same thing at this level’ but it’s different. It’s a job, right? Everyone has to do their job and that was my biggest struggle."
Ohin was able to grow into a starting calibre player in his rookie year, but there was one thing missing — a goal. Ohin had several oh-so-close moments, but he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. He sometimes tortures himself by rewatching those plays on his phone and wishing they could’ve ended differently, but overall, he’s not letting his goalless drought define his season.
"Eventually, I know it’s going to come. I don’t really force goals," he said. "I want to be a team player. I’m happy when the team is winning. I’m happy when someone scores. If I don’t score and I can help the team out, at the end of the day, we’re one family and the team wins. It’s not Raphael that won."
Valour wasn’t doing a whole lot of winning last year, as they finished with an 8-4-16 record. Ohin believed the squad lacked in chemistry, but he’s hopeful Year 2 will be a different story with some of the new faces that have been brought into the fold.
"Having fresh guys coming in, it’s probably going to be a totally new team. Maybe a bit of fresh air for all of us," said Ohin. "I’m so excited about it. I have this feeling it’s going to be better than last season."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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